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China Ushers in Year of the Tiger

China welcomed the start of the new lunar year with traditional deafening and dazzling firework displays.

Firecrackers echoed across major cities as the Year of the Tiger was ushered in on the stroke of midnight Saturday.

Dragons dancers, drummers, bell and gong ringers added to the cacophony of celebrations.

Hundreds of millions braved the cold winter weather to travel home to be with their families, putting a great strain on the country's transport system. The government says 210 million passengers boarded trains and nearly 30 million traveled by air.

Millions more used buses and cars in what is believed to be the world's biggest annual human migration.

English graduate Kong Juan, 21, echoed the wishes of millions of Chinese, saying she hoped to have a prosperous year ahead for herself and her country.

"Happy Tiger Year. The Tiger Year is stronger," she said. "I want to study English harder and better than the year before and I hope the work and business is better than before. I hope my friends and everybody is fine. I want my country to become stronger."

Snow failed to dampen the traditional celebrations in Shanghai, and families visited temples to pray for good fortune in the year ahead.

Beijing's night sky was lit up by thousands of exploding fireworks to scare off evil spirits. Roughly 800,000 police and volunteers patrolled the capital to help ensure safety, but 52 people were reported injured in firework accidents.

Chinese TV showed wall-to-wall pageantry shows and the country's leaders visiting different parts of the nation.

In a New Year speech given Friday, Premier Wen Jiabao praised the county for facing up to the global financial crisis and overcoming recession. He said 2009 saw the Chinese people gain pride and confidence as the country's influence and status grew on the world stage. But he warned 2010 would be "a more complicated and complex year", domestically and internationally.

President Hu Jintao was shown visiting old Communist Party revolutionary bases, and promised to speed up development and improve living standards in the year ahead.