Tens of millions celebrate Year of the Tiger
Celebrations have been held around the country to mark the nation's most important holiday. In Shanghai, locals braved the rain and cold to line up outside temples to usher in the Year of the Tiger by praying for good fortune.
AFP - Firecrackers echoed through the streets in Shanghai Sunday as Chinese braved the rain and cold to line up outside temples to usher in the Year of the Tiger by praying for good fortune.
Snow covered rooftops in China's biggest city as a cold front swept over the country at the start of the Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, the nation's most important holiday.
"There will be a lot of rain and snow in the south during the Spring Festival," the National Meteorological Administration said.
The weather agency warned heavy snow was expected in eastern China and forecast freezing rain for Guizhou province in the southwest and in central Hunan province.
The weather threatened to cause chaos as millions travelled to be with their families around the vast nation of 1.3 billion, an exodus believed to be the world's largest annual human migration.
Authorities are hoping to avoid a repeat of the massive cold wave and freezing rain that hit southern and central China in 2008, crippling transport systems and stranding millions just as the travel rush got under way.
The government has said 210 million passengers were expected to take the train during the current New Year period, which officially began late January. Nearly 30 million more will travel by air and millions of others by bus.
Despite the rain and near freezing temperatures, the queue to enter Jing'An Temple, one of Shanghai's oldest Buddhist temples, stretched around block as people inside burned incense to bring wealth, health and happiness in the new year.
The sound of fireworks could be heard throughout Shanghai and Beijing as families set off displays to ward off evil spirits and draw the god of fortune to their doorsteps.
In Beijing, 52 people were injured in firework accidents overnight as 880,000 police and volunteers patrolled the city to help ensure safety, the Beijing News reported.
The streets of Hong Kong were unusually empty with many shops closed as residents visited relatives to usher in the Year of the Tiger.
Despite rainy skies and a thick blanket of fog enveloping the city's famed Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong's annual Chinese New Year parade was expected to go ahead Sunday evening featuring elaborate floats and musical performances.
"The Chinese New Year holiday is the sweetest moment for me. In this festive season, we can stay at home and offer best wishes to one another," said Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang.
As in China, millions in South Korea journeyed over snow-covered and slippery roads to their home towns or villages to pay their respects to ancestors.
More than 25 million people, just over half South Korea's population, were expected to be on the move during the holiday period, the transport ministry said.
The prime minister of Singapore, which opened its first casino on Sunday in time for the new year, has urged citizens to make more babies and ignore superstitions that children born in the Year of the Tiger will have the animal's attributes.
Babies born in Year of the Tiger are also believed to be independent and strong, but superstition holds it is a bad year for marriages and for those who tie this knot this year, the husband may die earlier than the wife.
"Tiger-years are typically marked by dramatic changes and even upheaval and 2010, much like the tiger itself, sees an energetic and powerful, but impulsive and risky, year ahead," independent brokerage CLSA's analysts wrote in a tongue-in-cheek lunar new year research note.