The Nian, The Big Dog That Lives In the Sky

My informant told me this story while trying to harken back to other stories from her childhood, after remembering festivals that she used to attend.

Uuh. There were a lot more other stories but I can’t really remember any in detail… [Pause, tapping pen.]

Oh! I remember my grandma telling me that there’s this big dog called Nian in the sky that eats the moon every month and spits it back out again, and that’s why the moon changes shape.

The Nian also tries to eat the sun every year, so that’s why Chinese people make a lot of noise [Gestures and makes woo sound, then laughs] and set off firecrackers and stuff in the streets, so they scare away the Nian and the sun comes up again the next year.

She said that she liked this story a great deal when she was a child and was not afraid of Nian.

It is interesting to me that both these stories (this and the lotus flower) show how family oriented these festivals are, without offering much detail about the actual festival. What shows their familial nature is her memory of family, specifically.