China welcomes Year of the Dragon
DPA BEIJING CHINA’S 1.3 billion people welcomed the traditionally auspicious lunar Year of the Dragon on Sunday with drinking, feasting and fireworks after hundreds of millions headed home for the annual Spring Festival.
Streets and shopping centres in the capital, Beijing, were deserted by early on Sunday evening as most people began celebrating at home by drinking and eating with friends amid an increasing frequency of fireworks explosions as midnight approached.
Many of Beijing’s 17 million residents were expected to take to the streets at midnight to witness a crescendo of whistles, rattles, booms, whizzes and pops from the millions of fireworks that turn Beijing and other Chinese cities into aural war zones each new year.
Panda Fireworks, one of the two main brands approved for sale in Beijing, said it offered eight new pyrotechnic products designed to “imitate the dancing and swirling” of a dragon. Sold for up to 1,000 yuan (160 dollars) each, they include a “golden dragon sending wishes” and a “jade dragon spitting gold.” Transportation authorities forecast a record number of 3.2 billion journeys by road, rail, air and ship in a 40-day peak period that includes the Spring Festival holiday week.
Many of the travellers are migrant workers who return home from large industrial cities to spend the holiday with their families, while Spring Festival vacations are growing in popularity for affluent urban families.
The world’s largest annual human migration would be supported by 4,100 trains daily over the holiday, 260 more than last year, state media quoted Vice Minister of Railways Hu Yadong as saying. Hu said he expected a daily average of 5.88 million people to use train services, while airlines planned to add some 14,000 flights during the 40-day travel peak.
In a new year message before the holiday, Premier Wen Jiabao said the government aimed to maintain “stable and relatively fast economic growth” in 2012. Wen urged people to “cherish the hard-won favourable development situation” in China.
The dragon is the fifth of the 12 Chinese animal zodiac signs that operate in a 12- year cycle.