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"I think that if cultural representation is done with respect and honest curiosity, it can lead to exploring new visions and create new representations that are unique and valid. The exercise of trying to understand other cultures and observing their visual metaphors is important, because they connect us in a deep way.

 I think we are never able to represent the vision of others, their culture, if it is not ours...

 but it is okay. I think that when we represent other cultures to be seen by people outside the contexts of those cultures, we need to share and to mix imagery to reach a common ground."

Bea Chung is a first-year MFA candidate in Scenic Design at The Pennsylvania State University. She is Tusan, meaning she is the 4th generation to have been born outside China. She is from Lima, Peru, and honors the Chinese heritage her family has recovered alongside her Peruvian culture. 

Nian Design


This costume is comprised of a set of armor (pauldrons, front and back breastplate, vambraces, faulds, and greaves), a horned headdress, hooves, 11 hair units, and a unitard. 

The design is very conceptual and seeks to evoke its Chinese inspiration through the use of shape (particularly in the headdress), decoration, and language. The costume manipulates proportion in an attempt to further remove the model from being human without attempting to 'be' an animal.

I designed the costume intending to utilize digital fabric creation and laser-cut elements. 



This unitard is based off the pattern developed for the original Broadway production of Cats and was my first foray into stretchwear.


I selected an image of highly texturized mammal hair to scale and manipulate to have printed onto the spandex for this garment. The texture and high contrast ensures that it shows through in those spots not covered by armor.





This headdress is comprised of a wired, sized felt skullcap, an EVA foam base covered in hand-painted scales, hollow hemp horns supported with boiled leather, and five 'wefted' hair pieces made of dyed muslin, hemp, and jute cord.

The shaping is meant to be reminiscent of Chinese dragons and Chinese Lions while not copying the stylization of either. 

I designed this element of the costume before I began work on the full design-- it informed every single piece that followed.



The breastplate consists of a two-piece, articulated front and a back piece that overlaps and ties in the front.

The decorative additions on the front feature Chinese characters-- the two identical (smaller) characters represent the Chinese monkey because Bea was born in the year of the monkey. The two larger characters stand for 'New Year Beast,' which is a literal translation for what the Nian creature is.  

Chinese Characters


The Chinese characters depicted on the greaves and vambraces are a mix of verbs and adjectives including 'to destroy,' 'to trample,' 'to ruin,' and 'powerful.'

The original design concept was that Chinese characters would fully border each piece of armor; however, it better served the costume to feature fewer characters and make them substantially larger.

Full Costume
Nian Design