China bids adieu to Year of Dragon
Beijing: China Saturday bid farewell to the Year of Dragon and braced to celebrate the Lunar New Year with the arrival of the Year of the Snake tomorrow.
The world's most populous nation with over 1.34 billion people will shut down for the next ten days starting from today.
The new year begins tomorrow, when the new moon is seen in the sky.
In China, an estimated 200 million people are travelling to be with their families in what is considered the biggest mass human migration on Earth.
The new year is traditionally brought in with fireworks and firecrackers, but residents of Beijing have been asked to set off fewer this year, in an attempt to minimise additional pollution in the frequently smog-bound city.
Traditional foods associated with long life or good luck are a key part of lunar new year festivities.
In China, snakes are predominantly associated with venom - even though only 65 species out of some 600 in the country are poisonous. Worldwide, there are 725 species of venomous snakes, of which about 250 can kill a human.
Like many creatures it is also a delicacy with people feasting on it.
The snake is also considered a as a symbol of sexual passion. In China, snake wine made by infusing snakes in grain alcohol, is believed to have a rejuvenating, sometimes aphrodisiac power.
"As a gourmet dish, the snake is much valued in the Middle Kingdom, especially in southern China. For those who believe in traditional Chinese medicine, each part of the snake is a "treasure". Snake bile is said to be a remedy for many ailments, including rheumatism. Ironically, its venom is made into drugs to counter pain, poisoning and blood clot," Zhou said.
But its past years also associated with conflict such as 9/11 terrorist attacks in US in 2001 and students uprising in 1981 resulting in heavy violence in Beijing's Tiananmen square.
With China-Japan conflict over the disputes islands deepening, fears of war hover in the minds of Chinese who also apprehend a tough year as the economy slowed down considerably falling to 13 years low of 7.8 per cent from 9.3 per cent last year.
Also the new Chinese leadership, headed by Vice President Xi Jinping take over power next month marking the once-in-a-decade leadership in China posing new challenges to the 64 year rule of Communist Party of China.