Jan 212012

春乐节快!/ 春樂節快! Chūnjié kuàilè!
新年快乐!/ 新年快樂! Xīnnián kuàilè!

It’s nearly Chinese New Year (Spring Festival). The word nián ‘year’ is said to be the name of a legendary monster who used to terrorize people at this time of year. You can hear or read the story in any number of places, but a cute version is the iOS app The Beast Nian by Rye Studio.

Image of Nian carrying off a horse

Nian carries off a horse to eat in the Rye Studio app

Here are a few useful vocabulary items for the story:

pinyin English
除夕 chúxī (New Year’s) Eve
shòu beast
凶猛 xiōngměng ferocious
躲避 duǒbì hide, avoid
鞭炮 biānpào firecrackers
驅逐 驱逐 qūzhú drive out

This is a good opportunity to review the Rye Studio apps.

Rye Studio has released a few dozen RyeBooks on the App Store. The ones that I’ve seen are all children’s picture books with text and optional audio storytelling (both in a choice of languages). The illustrations sort of slide and zoom in, but these are not fully animated cartoons.

When you choose a language from the main menu, that language is used for both the text and narration, but once the story begins, you can change the language of the text on the fly, including changing from simplified to traditional characters, by tapping the little button with the page number. From there you can also choose to see pinyin with the hanzi, or hide the text entirely. This doesn’t change the language of the narration, so you can use it like subtitles to see an English translation while listening to the Chinese. The languages available in the Beast Nian app are Chinese, English, Japanese, German, French, and Spanish.

A very nifty feature is the ability to record yourself on each page of the story. Parents could record their own voice for their children or students could practice and compare themselves to the narrator (or teachers could evaluate students’ pronunciation).

There are many other nice features (which may vary from book to book) in the these apps:

  • You can bring up a page that has just a transcript of the story. In addition to the various languages available in the picture book, you can choose to see hanzi (simplified or traditional) with pinyin. Note that in the Nian app, the German and French transcripts are reversed (hopefully this will get fixed in an update).
  • Ability to copy whole frames (I pasted one into Keynote for iOS; this would be useful for teachers).
  • Many other export options: Email, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Tumbler, and Sina Weibo.
  • Pages can be turned automatically or manually.
  • Double-tapping the page will repeat the audio.
  • There is a bedtime mode, which allows you to listen to the story without the illustrations or text.


  • You have to tap a small arrow to turn the pages; swiping or tapping the edge of the page would be more in keeping with other apps, like iBooks.
  • The text on the page sometimes doesn’t fit in the box allotted on the screen. You have to scroll within the little box. This means you can’t capture the frame with all its text. I’d like to see the box resize to fit the contents, although this would mean obscuring more of the image. Given that you can slide the box up and down on the page, this might not be a problem.
  • There’s no way that I can see to jump to a particular page.

The Beast Nian by Rye Studio is available on the App Store (free as of this writing).

恭喜发财!恭喜發財! Gōngxǐ fācái!

  One Response to “Chinese New Year and the beast Nian”

  1. [...] iOS app for 清明节 Qīngmíngjié  Listening and speaking, Reading and writing Apr 062012   var addthis_product = 'wpp-264'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true,"data_track_addressbar":true,"ui_508_compliant":true};if (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}This week was 清明节 Qīngmíngjié, known in English as the Tomb Sweeping Festival or, more literally, the Clear Bright (or Pure Brightness) Festival. The story of its relation to the 寒食节 Hánshíjié (Cold Food Festival) is told in the iOS app from Rye Studio called 清明节. This app has features similar to the Rye Studio Beast Nian app, reviewed in a previous post. [...]

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>