Migration Chinese New Year: The Biggest Celebration on Earth


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Migration

An amazing insight into the massive annual celebration. The first episode follows the weeks leading up to New Year and is based at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.


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Transcript


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This programme contains scenes of Repetitive Flashing Images.

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Welcome to China.

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We are here at the Snow And Ice Festival

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in the northern city of Harbin, where many families come

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to start their celebrations of Chinese New Year.

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This time of year sees the largest annual mass migration of people on

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the planet, when a sixth of the worlds population travels home

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to celebrate with their families.

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That's around a billion people

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making over three and a half billion journeys in a 40 day period.

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Join us over the next three nights, as we'll be finding out

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what it's like to be at the world's biggest party.

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Yes, get your party poppers ready, here's what's coming up.

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Three, two, one, go!

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Over the next three nights we'll be based here in icy Harbin,

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and way down south in tropical Hong Kong,

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exploring how the Chinese experience the most important festival in their calendar.

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It's like watching a magic trick.

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We'll uncover this extraordinary annual event

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and experience the richness of Chinese culture.

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Whoa, whoa, we're pulling it out, we're pulling it out.

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Sorry!

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From how families prepare for festivities...

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..to the celebrations on the day itself.

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Across the series, I'll be focusing on

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New Year technology and traditions.

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Happy New Year. Ganbei.

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I'll discover the amazing way

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that rural China used to celebrate New Year.

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And tonight the Hairy Bikers will be helping out at the world's largest

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motor bike migration.

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Let's see if we can cut the congee.

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HE SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE

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Happy New Year!

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And I will be journeying to the remotest corner of south-west China

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to track down a living, breathing symbol of New Year 2016...

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Oh, my goodness!

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..the Year of the Monkey.

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Xinnian kuaile! Welcome to China.

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-BOTH:

-Xinnian kuaile!

-Xinnian kuaile!

-Xinnian kuaile!

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-ALL:

-Xinnian kuaile!

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-ALL:

-Xinnian kuaile!

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Happy Chinese New Year!

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Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, or Chun Jie.

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-Is that the right pronunciation?

-Close enough.

-OK. Thanks.

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It lasts 15 days and it's the

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most important holiday in the Chinese calendar.

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The start of the festival falls on a different day in either

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January or February and it's dictated by the lunar calendar,

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with New Year's Day 2016 falling on February 8th.

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And in the run-up to it, the whole country is on the move,

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seeing the sights and travelling home to be with their families.

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China is truly vast.

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You can fly for six and a half hours and still be in the same country.

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Harbin is in the north-eastern corner of this huge country,

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that's home to 1.3 billion people.

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As well as having some of the fastest-growing modern cities,

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the landscapes are truly diverse.

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They range from vast deserts to expansive grasslands,

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tropical jungles and the highest mountain range in the world.

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China's written history dates back

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over 3,000 years and through the reigns of over 500 emperors.

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Its economy is the largest on Earth and it makes and exports more goods

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than anywhere else on the globe.

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Chinese food is as rich and varied as any on Earth,

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with thousands of dishes to choose from, all cooked in a variety

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of ways using a host of different ingredients grown right across

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this vast nation.

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And it's changing astonishingly fast. By 2030 it's estimated

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that 1 billion people will be living in Chinese cities -

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just like here in Beijing.

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Many of these new people flocking to the cities were migrant workers in

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search of a better life for themselves and their families.

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And at Chinese New Year, the modern

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and the traditional

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are brought together as the Chinese prepare for a celebration even older

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than the Great Wall itself.

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The Great Wall of China snakes for over 5,000 miles

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across Northern and Western China.

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And the oldest parts date back over 2,500 years.

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This is Harbin's great ice wall.

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Not quite as long at 450 metres, and sadly not as enduring, either.

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When the thaw comes this will be transformed

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into the great puddle of China!

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As the day goes on this place will start to fill up.

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Queues for attractions here can last up to three hours,

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but that's nothing compared to the pressure

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on the Chinese transport system,

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when around a billion people want to travel home for New Year,

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and all at the same time.

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The Chinese have a phrase for it - Chunyun -

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which translates as spring migration.

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We went to Beijing to find out how they cope with the biggest movement

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of people on Earth.

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Beijing is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.

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Around 21 million people live and work here, but at Chinese New Year

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millions flood out of the city

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and head to their home towns across China.

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The total number of trips made by road in China in and around New Year

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is an eye watering 3.2 billion.

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And a lot of them are made in this very city of Beijing.

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And like cabbies all over the world,

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my taxi driver, Ma Yingqi, enjoys a

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good old moan about the city's traffic.

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TRANSLATION:

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Managing this flow of vehicles takes a huge amount of technology.

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This state-of-the-art monitoring hub

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is the responsibility of Gongsun Lin.

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The traffic is very, very busy.

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It's busier than Shanghai or Chonqing,

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and because we have a really big rural network,

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it's a very big job moving all the persons to their home town.

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The roads are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Seven days. Everyday we have to be here.

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And it's cabs, like the one I'm in,

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that provide the data needed to keep the traffic flowing.

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You have 67,000 taxis in Beijing,

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and every one of them equipped with GPS.

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Every 30 seconds each taxi relays its position and speed back to the

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control room. This information helps to construct an overall picture of

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the city's traffic flow in real-time.

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HORN HONKS, HE LAUGHS

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The data can then be used to let drivers know where the hotspots are

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so they can try to avoid the jams.

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TRANSLATION:

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We're getting nowhere.

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For those who want to travel further afield for Chinese New Year,

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there's another option - they fly.

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Across China

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a staggering 54 million trips are by air during the Festival.

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This is Beijing Capital Airport.

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And it is always busy, but during Spring Festival

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this becomes the busiest airport in the world.

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As you can see, it feels like the whole country is on the move.

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During the New Year rush, almost 10 million people pass through

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this airport, mostly flying home to China.

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Li Tongyu lives in Surrey.

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She is preparing to fly to Beijing with her family.

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We haven't been spending Chinese New Year with my family back in China

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for about nine years now.

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Mary, my eldest daughter, was only three years old and little Harry

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not even born yet. So I think it will be a great opportunity for them

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to experience the whole thing.

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-Hello.

-Hello.

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I have one elder brother in Beijing, along with my parents.

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And particularly at the Chinese New Year's celebration time

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is the most time we miss them.

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Hello!

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Especially when your parent's not well, like my father,

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been struggling with Parkinson's,

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and it has been quite difficult.

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My father always miss me, especially in the Chinese New Year.

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So this time, I think, will make him extremely happy.

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There's me. And we did, like, the long hair, kind of...

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In traditional Chinese family,

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having a family portrait is very important,

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so this year I'm going to give my father a surprise.

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We are going to have the children draw a portrait,

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and that will be a big surprise for them. It will be wonderful.

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-JING:

-Meanwhile, over 250 million rail journeys are made across China

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during the festival.

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Last year, 5.6 million rail tickets were sold in a single day.

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One of the busiest stations in the country is Beijing West.

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In the fortnight leading up to New Year's Eve,

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over three million people will pass through these ticket barriers

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to get a train from here. That's over 200,000 people a day!

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For some, the days they take off now

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are the only holiday they get all year, so they are prepared to travel

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a long way for a long time to get home.

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TRANSLATION:

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He's got a 16-hour journey!

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I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

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He's going to get on a train for 31 hours!

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With so many people on the move, things can get complicated,

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especially when the weather intervenes.

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This year, Chinese television reported queues of up to 100,000

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people at Guangdong train station when heavy snow caused delays.

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To keep everything running smoothly requires precision organisation.

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Compared to the bustle outside,

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the Railway Bureau Control Centre is an oasis of calm.

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This place is incredible. It is huge.

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I feel like I'm in the control room of Apollo 13.

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And you can see that everyone is so focused,

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and the concentration, I can feel the buzz in the room.

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Because I guess they have to.

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They are ultimately responsible for every train that passes through.

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In charge of keeping the system moving is this man.

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TRANSLATION:

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The station also takes on an extra 1,000 workers on the ground

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to help ease the load. There's one group which is easy to spot

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by the way they're always shifting suitcases.

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TRANSLATION:

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One familiar sight to anyone who uses Beijing rail is the Red Caps.

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Their job is to help people load their luggage onto trains,

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and at this time of year, with everyone bearing gifts,

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they've truly got their work cut out for them.

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TRANSLATION:

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Oh, that's so sad! Makes me cry.

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Oh! He really misses his home!

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I'll let him get back to it. I think I'm adding to his workload.

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Back at Beijing Airport,

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the concourse is full of arriving passengers and waiting families.

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There is the most amazing atmosphere down here.

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It's just full of kind of anticipation and excitement.

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I'm surrounded by people who are being reunited with their families,

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and there are just these lovely scenes happening all around me,

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sort of tiny little dramas of people coming together.

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It's just lovely.

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The parents and brother of Li Tongyu,

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who's travelled from Surrey, are waiting for her flight to land.

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TRANSLATION:

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A monkey.

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You like this?

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That's for you!

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The children present their special surprise.

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Well, this is certainly one family

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that's going to have a very, very happy New Year.

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It is astonishing, isn't it?

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The lengths that people will go to, to be with their family.

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-A lot of people.

-I don't think I've ever seen so many people in my life.

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But what about Chinese families in the UK, for example,

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like your family? Will you make a big effort to be together?

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We make an effort, but nothing on that kind of scale because we are in

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the UK and there's no holidays.

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Of course, yeah. So you don't get your 15 days off?

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No, we don't. I've tried, but, yeah,

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-I've had a word and they're not buying it.

-So what will you do?

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I go home. My parents cook a shed-load of food and I eat it.

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-Perfect.

-Yeah.

-Well, as we said right at the top of the show,

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this extraordinary ice city is built from scratch every single year,

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and Ant has been finding out how it all began.

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In Harbin,

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the winter temperatures drop as low as -30 degrees centigrade.

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But for the people who live here,

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this frozen world is just a way of life.

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Tucked away in the frozen north-east of China,

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Harbin was originally a tiny rural settlement.

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Until the railways arrived.

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The Chinese Eastern Railway

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connected eastern Siberia, via Harbin, to Russia.

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It transformed the city

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into the beating heart of commerce and industry in this region.

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And the Russian connection is everywhere.

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The people who built the railways and settled here

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were made of pretty strong stuff. Looking around, I'm the only one

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that's quite so kitted up for the cold.

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Even the kids here, they look hardier than me.

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The people here aren't just surviving.

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They've embraced the sub-zero temperatures.

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In fact, five million people are happy to call Harbin their home.

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By far and away the most extreme example of this city's passion

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for the cold is the local tradition of ice swimming.

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With an average temperature of -13 degrees outside,

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this is a showcase for the strong physique

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and the iron will of the Harbin locals.

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INDISTINCT CHATTER

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During the winter months, these brave swimmers head to the river

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to take a plunge in this special pool cut out of the ice.

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It's a truly local pastime.

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-OK!

-The river water is a painful 1 degree Celsius.

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Without these motors to keep the water constantly moving,

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it's would simply freeze over.

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This isn't the type of pool you want to take a relaxing dip in.

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Just for a second, if I take my glove off, put my whole hand in...

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Ah! I can assure you, that is absolutely freezing!

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Phew!

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Some of the regulars have been coming here for over 20 years.

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Mr Yu, why do you do this?

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TRANSLATION:

0:19:310:19:33

Stretches.

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Definitely.

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Oh, my God!

0:19:430:19:44

Yeah. Ni hao.

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Even if I was tempted to take the plunge - and I assure you I'm not -

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jumping into the water unacclimatized,

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I'd run the risk of a heart attack.

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-LAUGHING:

-What is going on?

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It's bonkers!

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Incredibly, the average age here is 70.

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TRANSLATION:

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Ice swimming is more about resilience than, shall we say,

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graceful technique.

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TRANSLATION:

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But this icy river isn't just for extreme sports.

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All the building materials for the festival at Harbin

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are taken from this spot to create the city of ice.

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In just one week, 8,000 workers cut out the 180,000 cubic metres

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of ice needed.

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It's only when you get closer you realise just how thick this ice is.

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That's around 20 inches.

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This is a proper construction project on an industrial scale.

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For nearly 60 years, this humble patch of earth on the outskirts

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of town has been transformed into a frozen fantasyland.

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125,000 tonnes of ice is cut,

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shifted and painstakingly crafted.

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In just three weeks, an entire city has emerged,

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and here it is in all its frosty glory.

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Every year there's a different theme

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reflecting on a period of Chinese history.

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And this year it's the Silk Road.

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The Silk Road was an ancient trade route

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linking China to the Mediterranean Sea.

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Dating from the 2nd century BC,

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Chinese merchants used to use it to unite the East and the West.

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Looking back to the past has long been a part of Chinese culture.

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This is a Chinese tower, inspired by the Pavilion of Prince Teng,

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it's a classic Chinese design

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and it's built to represent the country where the Silk Road began.

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Over here in the distance, the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul.

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It's a Byzantine masterpiece in ice.

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Now, slightly off-track but over here in the distance,

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a nod to our Russian neighbours.

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This ice version of the cathedral from Moscow's Red Square

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by the Kremlin towers 34 metres high.

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But typically for the people of Harbin,

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this festival goes from extreme beauty to extreme adrenaline.

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Take a look down there. 320 metres.

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You do about 10 metres a second,

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which puts it into Olympic sprinter territory.

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-Ha-ha!

-And speaking of sprinters...

-Here you are.

-Humble.

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We're going to have a race, what do you think?

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-I think you're going to come second, so prepare that silver medal.

-No!

0:23:520:23:55

-Not so fast.

-I'm not losing this.

-Ready...

0:23:550:23:59

-OK, you say go.

-Three, two, one. Go!

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-Whoohoo!

-Go on!

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Whoo-hoo-hoo!

0:24:050:24:08

Winner!

0:24:200:24:22

Oh, you're not even close.

0:24:240:24:26

It's cos you've been eating so many dumplings!

0:24:260:24:29

Oh, this is easy.

0:24:320:24:33

Now, this festival is all about celebration,

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with people here up for as much fun as possible.

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And that's the spirit of Chinese New Year.

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Days off here are truly precious, with public official holidays

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being the only time most people get off away from work,

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and one family making the most of it are the Hans.

0:24:510:24:55

-Hello.

-ALL: Hello! Ni hao!

0:24:550:24:57

TRANSLATION:

0:24:570:24:58

They're from Nantong.

0:25:010:25:02

They have never in their whole history

0:25:370:25:39

not gone home for Chinese New Year.

0:25:390:25:41

They've always celebrated together.

0:25:410:25:43

Well, thank you so much for talking with us today. Are you guys ready?

0:25:430:25:46

Well, inevitably, Ant has been busy and has organised and ice tug-of-war

0:25:540:25:58

and asked me to be ref. So, is everybody ready?

0:25:580:26:00

-Ready!

-You ready, that side?

-Ready?

-Ready, that side?

0:26:000:26:04

Three, two, one, pull!

0:26:040:26:08

And as Ant takes on the locals, we're going to take you

0:26:100:26:13

on one of the spectacular journeys of this time of year.

0:26:130:26:17

Every Chinese New Year,

0:26:170:26:19

a giant motorbike flotilla takes to the road as migrant workers

0:26:190:26:24

head home to be with their families.

0:26:240:26:26

And we have the perfect duo to go along with for the ride -

0:26:260:26:30

Si and Dave, the Hairy Bikers.

0:26:300:26:32

Come on, this team!

0:26:320:26:35

Come on!

0:26:350:26:36

Every New Year, in the heartland of industrial China,

0:26:410:26:44

thousands upon thousands of motorcyclists brave the weather

0:26:440:26:48

and take to the road, determined to make it home to their families.

0:26:480:26:53

These workers are employed in the largest urban area in the world,

0:27:030:27:07

Guangdong Province in southern China,

0:27:070:27:09

where many of them live the entire year.

0:27:090:27:12

The factories that line this huge river delta employee migrants

0:27:130:27:16

who have often come from villages hundreds of miles away.

0:27:160:27:20

The journey home is long, cold and exhausting.

0:27:220:27:26

Around the city of Zhaoqing, aid stations have been set up

0:27:260:27:30

for the bikers to shake out their soaking ponchos

0:27:300:27:32

and stop for food.

0:27:320:27:34

We are at an aid station

0:27:380:27:40

which is one of several that runs inland from Zhaoqing.

0:27:400:27:43

Now, it's a bit of a bottleneck here,

0:27:430:27:46

and more than 50,000 motorcycles

0:27:460:27:47

will pass through on their way home for the festivities.

0:27:470:27:51

I can't tell you how amazing it is to see so many bikes in one place.

0:27:540:27:59

I'm tickled pink with excitement.

0:27:590:28:01

Yeah, bikes are an important form of transport in China.

0:28:010:28:05

Planes and trains can be too expensive for people,

0:28:050:28:08

so the humble bike is often the only way thousands of workers

0:28:080:28:11

can get home.

0:28:110:28:14

There's a whole team of volunteers helping here.

0:28:140:28:17

One of them is Danny.

0:28:170:28:19

Danny, what exactly is happening?

0:28:190:28:22

In every station, we provide hot water, ginger porridge...

0:28:220:28:26

-Ginger porridge?

-Ginger porridge, yeah.

0:28:260:28:28

-Perfect.

-Motorcycle repairmen, and all of them are free.

0:28:280:28:32

We ride motorcycles a lot, and the amount of times where we would have

0:28:320:28:37

loved to be able to come in here

0:28:370:28:39

for something to eat, something to drink,

0:28:390:28:41

somebody to have a look at the bike...

0:28:410:28:43

Well, it's kind of a comradery that's going on as well, isn't it?

0:28:430:28:45

Everybody's going home for the big Chinese New Year's Eve.

0:28:450:28:48

-Yeah.

-I'll tell you what I think is a lovely, lovely touch.

0:28:480:28:51

Over there, there's lovely heaters for people to warm their feet

0:28:510:28:55

-cos it is pretty miserable and cold.

-Yeah.

0:28:550:28:59

Far and away the busiest part of the pit stop is the food tent,

0:28:590:29:03

and the house speciality every day is ginger porridge.

0:29:030:29:07

But there are no Scottish oats in here.

0:29:070:29:09

Instead, its rice.

0:29:090:29:11

So, and interestingly enough,

0:29:110:29:13

it's savoury with a little bit of pork. It's good.

0:29:130:29:16

Yeah. Heavy ginger.

0:29:160:29:18

How many of these do you go through a day, these big pots of porridge?

0:29:180:29:22

About ten.

0:29:220:29:24

-Ten!

-Ten?

-Gosh.

-Wow!

0:29:240:29:26

Well, we wanted to find out the secrets of such a popular porridge,

0:29:290:29:33

so we followed our noses to the back streets Shashan and to a volunteer

0:29:330:29:38

known simply as Auntie Porridge.

0:29:380:29:41

You are Auntie Porridge,

0:29:410:29:43

the person who provides all that porridge at the aid station.

0:29:430:29:46

We've had your porridge, your congee, it's good.

0:29:460:29:51

It's so good, it's so good.

0:29:510:29:54

-Oh.

-How do you make it?

0:29:540:29:56

TRANSLATION:

0:29:560:29:58

She wants you to chop those.

0:30:040:30:06

I'm in my element, chopping up ginger, spring onion,

0:30:060:30:09

radish and pork under the gaze of some keen critics.

0:30:090:30:14

I've got to constantly stir now. I'm here for three days.

0:30:140:30:17

Auntie!

0:30:170:30:18

Auntie Porridge?

0:30:190:30:21

Not with that one, with this one. OK.

0:30:230:30:26

The pork is coated in cornflour and popped into the pot.

0:30:260:30:29

I'll tell you what it's like.

0:30:290:30:31

You know when you stir wallpaper paste, when it goes really thick?

0:30:310:30:34

It's like that sort of consistency.

0:30:340:30:37

I think sometimes your food tastes like that.

0:30:370:30:40

Go away.

0:30:400:30:41

Oh! It's like that, is it?

0:30:470:30:49

Well, the proof is in the pudding.

0:30:490:30:52

Or should we say the porridge?

0:30:520:30:54

It's time to find out what our fellow bikers

0:30:550:30:57

make of our ginger porridge.

0:30:570:30:59

And to try out our best Mandarin and Cantonese.

0:30:590:31:03

-HE SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE

-Happy New Year!

0:31:030:31:06

Oh, look at that!

0:31:060:31:08

Some of these people have been on the road since three o'clock in the

0:31:080:31:11

morning, and this is the first thing they've had to eat.

0:31:110:31:14

HE SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE

0:31:140:31:16

Well, it seems to be going down well with the connoisseurs.

0:31:160:31:19

-It is! Do you know what?

-What?

0:31:190:31:21

I think Auntie Porridge has taught us well.

0:31:210:31:24

Do you know what I mean? It's great, isn't it?

0:31:240:31:27

Many of the migrant travellers are young parents returning home to see

0:31:270:31:31

their children, often for the first time in many months,

0:31:310:31:34

like Liang Yongxian and Li Bingling

0:31:340:31:37

Do you have a family waiting at home?

0:31:380:31:41

TRANSLATION:

0:31:410:31:45

What do you do when you get home?

0:31:540:31:57

-That would be an absolute honour.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:32:060:32:10

We want to take up Yongxian's kind offer, but there's one big problem.

0:32:110:32:15

Would you believe it, one of the greatest motorcycle happenings

0:32:150:32:18

in the world and we can't ride a motorcycle!

0:32:180:32:21

Well, that's because we don't have a Chinese motorcycle licence

0:32:210:32:24

and the laws are strictly enforced at this time of the year

0:32:240:32:26

because there are so many motorcyclists on the road.

0:32:260:32:28

-Anyway, I've got a surprise for you.

-What?

0:32:280:32:31

A ride in the back of a Chinese police car!

0:32:340:32:36

And it's not your first time, is it?

0:32:360:32:39

How dare you!

0:32:390:32:40

Because of the huge numbers of bikes on the road during Chinese New Year,

0:32:450:32:49

the local police provide an escort.

0:32:490:32:52

As the workers near their home towns and villages,

0:33:010:33:03

the flotilla breaks up.

0:33:030:33:05

Yongxian and Bingling are now on the familiar roads near their home.

0:33:120:33:15

After hours of travelling,

0:33:220:33:23

they are returned to the warm welcome of their family.

0:33:230:33:26

Like so many migrant workers,

0:33:320:33:34

Yongxian has sacrificed family life

0:33:340:33:37

to bring them all a better standard of living.

0:33:370:33:40

And as night falls, we join them around the dinner table

0:33:400:33:43

for one of the oldest traditions on Earth...

0:33:430:33:46

..the international icebreaker of hospitality, food and great company.

0:33:480:33:54

TRANSLATION:

0:33:540:33:56

Hot pot?

0:33:560:33:58

Cheers!

0:34:060:34:07

Well, mate, that is what it's all about.

0:34:160:34:18

Yeah. I mean, the feeling of joy around that table makes that journey

0:34:180:34:22

worthwhile, and that's happening all over China.

0:34:220:34:26

-Fantastic.

-Yeah.

0:34:260:34:28

Once the hairy bikers left the flotilla they headed for Beijing,

0:34:330:34:36

and that's where we'll be joining them again tomorrow evening.

0:34:360:34:39

Now, so far you've just seen the Harbin ice city in the daytime,

0:34:390:34:43

but when darkness falls it becomes even more magical.

0:34:430:34:47

The sun is about to set any minute now and the temperature is about to

0:34:470:34:51

drop another 10 degrees. It's about -20 now,

0:34:510:34:55

and we're expecting temperatures of -30 or even lower tonight,

0:34:550:34:59

so I'm going to go put on some extra layers and I'm going to leave you

0:34:590:35:02

to witness the spectacular transformation that happens

0:35:020:35:05

when darkness falls.

0:35:050:35:07

It's this that makes the Harbin Ice Festival famous the world over

0:35:230:35:27

and brings in visitors from all over China.

0:35:270:35:30

China is also becoming a popular destination

0:35:320:35:35

for international tourists,

0:35:350:35:37

especially from South Korea, Japan, the US and Russia.

0:35:370:35:41

In fact, in 2014 it was the fourth most visited country in the world.

0:35:410:35:47

This increase in tourism has meant that the festival designers

0:35:490:35:52

have had to challenge themselves to become ever more inventive.

0:35:520:35:56

This year they've really gone to town with this magnificent

0:35:560:36:00

fairy tale castle.

0:36:000:36:02

But this is this year's star attraction.

0:36:080:36:12

It is the biggest ice sculpture that has ever been attempted here at

0:36:120:36:17

Harbin. It stands at 46.6 - very important, that .6 - metres high,

0:36:170:36:23

standing proud in the sky and it's lit up by over a million lights.

0:36:230:36:28

And as you can see, it's lights that really bring the Festival to life.

0:36:280:36:33

And it looks very hi-tech and modern, but actually this is

0:36:330:36:37

a really ancient tradition that goes back centuries,

0:36:370:36:40

as Ant has been discovering.

0:36:400:36:42

The red lantern is the classic emblem of China.

0:36:470:36:50

In ancient times,

0:36:530:36:55

they were used to mark the entrances of houses and they soon became

0:36:550:36:59

a sign of joy and festivity.

0:36:590:37:01

At Chinese New Year, lanterns represent the light of hope.

0:37:030:37:08

Back in the 1960s, the people of Harbin couldn't afford traditional

0:37:120:37:15

lanterns to celebrate New Year,

0:37:150:37:17

so they froze water in buckets, put candles inside,

0:37:170:37:20

and the ice Festival was born.

0:37:200:37:22

Using light as a symbol of celebration has continued through

0:37:250:37:28

to the modern festival today.

0:37:280:37:30

Almost every one of over 2,000 buildings here

0:37:390:37:42

has its very own light display.

0:37:420:37:44

The lighting design is almost as epic an endeavour as building the

0:37:500:37:53

festival itself.

0:37:530:37:55

The logistics involved in making this happen are staggering.

0:37:550:37:58

The sheer scale of the operation

0:38:000:38:02

means the Festival needs 230,000 metres of electrical cables.

0:38:020:38:06

That's 13.8 million individual lights.

0:38:080:38:12

But creating such a vast electrical system demands meticulous attention

0:38:150:38:19

to detail to withstand such extreme conditions.

0:38:190:38:22

And this is how they do it.

0:38:240:38:25

The lights are actually individual LEDs

0:38:250:38:28

housed within a resilient silicon strip.

0:38:280:38:31

These aren't your standard household LEDs.

0:38:320:38:35

A team of engineers have specifically designed ones

0:38:350:38:38

to withstand the freezing temperatures.

0:38:380:38:40

OK, it's more expensive than a conventional light bulb,

0:38:410:38:44

but it is more eco-friendly. Plus, can you imagine

0:38:440:38:46

the bill to pay the electricity at this place?

0:38:460:38:49

Each block of the ice is hand chiselled to create a groove

0:38:520:38:55

for the LED strip.

0:38:550:38:57

The blocks are then lined up in a brick wall pattern.

0:38:570:39:00

The great thing about LEDs is they emit less heat.

0:39:010:39:04

What you don't want within an ice block is a block melting.

0:39:040:39:07

Now, you need to join the bricks together. Traditionally,

0:39:070:39:10

and especially in your home, you'd use something like cement.

0:39:100:39:13

But here in Harbin they use something completely different.

0:39:130:39:16

Water. I've kept it in my coat to try and keep it liquid.

0:39:180:39:21

Very simply, pour the water on,

0:39:210:39:24

and I literally only have a few seconds to get the next brick on top

0:39:240:39:28

before the water freezes.

0:39:280:39:30

The idea being that those two then fuse together and it becomes a solid

0:39:300:39:33

structure. A bit more Harbin cement...

0:39:330:39:36

Now the moment of truth. Hook some batteries up to my LEDs

0:39:400:39:43

and in theory I'll be able to illuminate

0:39:430:39:46

this beautiful piece of work.

0:39:460:39:47

Of course, there's a slightly bigger switchbox for the main event.

0:39:520:39:55

Each individual light is painstakingly turned on by hand,

0:39:590:40:02

row by row,

0:40:020:40:03

building by building, and I get to turn on the very last building.

0:40:030:40:06

So, which switch is it? This one here?

0:40:060:40:09

Three, two, OK!

0:40:090:40:11

There it is. A little bit of Russia in the middle of China.

0:40:240:40:27

The ice city is developed across an entire year by a team of architects,

0:40:350:40:39

and lasts just three months.

0:40:390:40:40

This is the chief designer.

0:40:450:40:47

How does it make you feel that everything that you've created

0:40:490:40:51

is going to melt?

0:40:510:40:53

TRANSLATION:

0:40:530:40:56

Harbin is following a tradition

0:41:130:41:15

that has put light at the heart of Chinese celebrations

0:41:150:41:18

for thousands of years.

0:41:180:41:20

I travelled west of the Beijing to a town that has preserved one of

0:41:240:41:28

China's most extraordinary ancient light shows.

0:41:280:41:30

If you want to see a centuries old slice of China,

0:41:340:41:37

Nuan Quan is a good place to start.

0:41:370:41:39

It's name means "warm spring town" and it's called that

0:41:390:41:41

because it has a geothermal spring which never freezes.

0:41:410:41:45

A bit of a bonus, really, here in winter,

0:41:450:41:46

when the temperature drops to -20 degrees.

0:41:460:41:49

Because of this, Nuan Quan has been inhabited for over 20,000 years.

0:41:500:41:55

Much of what you can see here

0:41:550:41:57

dates back to the Ming dynasty and is over 500 years old.

0:41:570:42:00

But it's not just these magnificent ancient buildings I've come to see.

0:42:020:42:05

I'm here because Nuan Quan is a place where some of China's oldest

0:42:050:42:08

New Year traditions have also been perfectly preserved.

0:42:080:42:11

One of the most spectacular, and most dangerous of them,

0:42:110:42:15

is called Da Shuhua,

0:42:150:42:16

which basically means creating a canopy of flowers.

0:42:160:42:19

A canopy of flowers made from flying shards of molten metal.

0:42:210:42:26

This tradition was started here 500 years ago as a cheap alternative

0:42:280:42:33

to fireworks by a blacksmith like Mr Xue.

0:42:330:42:37

His family have been blacksmiths here in Nuan Quan

0:42:370:42:40

for an incredible 14 generations,

0:42:400:42:42

and he is the last in a long line of Da Shuhua masters.

0:42:420:42:47

TRANSLATION:

0:42:470:42:48

The tradition has been that the art is passed down from fathers to sons,

0:43:190:43:23

and Mr Xue has two daughters.

0:43:230:43:25

Who is next, who is going to take over from you?

0:43:250:43:28

Creating a light show out of molten iron is a dangerous business,

0:43:440:43:48

but he has agreed to show me how it's done.

0:43:480:43:52

The molten iron has now been cooking for about 45 minutes,

0:43:520:43:54

and it's looking pretty hot, but before we let any sparks fly,

0:43:540:43:57

Mr Xue has to get into some protective clothing.

0:43:570:44:00

Now, if you think he is going to don a full asbestos suit with some

0:44:000:44:03

goggles and a helmet, think again.

0:44:030:44:05

Ready to go in the most flammable protective gear I've ever seen,

0:44:200:44:23

Mr Xue gives me my first ever demonstration of Da Shuhua.

0:44:230:44:27

So that was just a small-scale demonstration.

0:44:300:44:33

So if you want to see the full version,

0:44:330:44:35

we've got to go inside tonight into the theatre.

0:44:350:44:38

Traditionally, Da Shuhua was performed outside,

0:44:380:44:42

but the demand is so big today

0:44:420:44:44

that a specially built venue packs in 1,500 each night.

0:44:440:44:49

The old city walls have been recreated,

0:44:490:44:52

as throwing the molten iron onto those ancient walls

0:44:520:44:54

is where his ancestors forefathers invented the art.

0:44:540:44:58

The dancing and singing are just the warm-up

0:44:580:45:01

before the massive Da Shuhua finale.

0:45:010:45:04

And now for his big moment.

0:45:040:45:07

Protected only by his grandfather's sheepskin and a straw hat,

0:45:140:45:18

he is the eye of a storm of molten metal.

0:45:180:45:22

SHE MOUTHS

0:45:230:45:25

That was amazing.

0:45:260:45:28

And the effect is beautiful.

0:45:280:45:31

I know fireworks have come a long way in 500 years, but for me,

0:45:310:45:34

Da Shuhua still holds its own.

0:45:340:45:37

I feel really privileged to have witnessed an ancient tradition

0:45:380:45:42

performed by the last of the Da Shuhua masters.

0:45:420:45:45

And if you want to see what modern day fireworks are capable of,

0:45:470:45:50

then join me and Ant in Hong Kong in a couple of nights' time,

0:45:500:45:54

when we'll be at one of the most spectacular fireworks displays

0:45:540:45:57

on Earth. But from fireworks to ice works,

0:45:570:46:01

and these incredibly intricate ice sculptures,

0:46:010:46:04

which are all part of an international competition.

0:46:040:46:09

This year, there are 25 teams competing to take part,

0:46:090:46:11

with ten countries represented.

0:46:110:46:13

This is an expert who has crafted for the Festival in the past.

0:46:130:46:16

TRANSLATION:

0:46:190:46:21

So he's telling us about his tools,

0:46:340:46:35

and a tool like this one, a flat one, is for just to chip away...

0:46:350:46:39

And this tool is for doing details like the fish fins.

0:46:500:46:53

He doesn't get cold hands.

0:46:580:46:59

It was made by his wife!

0:47:040:47:05

One thing you will find all over China

0:47:090:47:11

in the lead up to Spring Festival are these, monkeys.

0:47:110:47:15

That's because 2016 is the Year of the Monkey,

0:47:150:47:18

one of the animals from the Chinese Zodiac.

0:47:180:47:20

I travelled to downtown Beijing

0:47:230:47:25

to discover how the Chinese Zodiac works and how New Year's shoppers

0:47:250:47:28

are preparing for the Year of the Monkey.

0:47:280:47:31

It's a bit like December in Britain.

0:47:340:47:36

If I was to go to my home town,

0:47:390:47:41

the shops would be full of tinsel and snowmen

0:47:410:47:44

and people would be rushing around buying gifts, cards

0:47:440:47:46

and decorations, and they'd be doing it for one specific day -

0:47:460:47:50

25th of December, Christmas Day.

0:47:500:47:52

But Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

0:47:540:47:57

According to the lunar calendar,

0:48:010:48:02

it's dictated by the first new moon closest to the beginning of spring.

0:48:020:48:07

To help me understand how this works is cultural expert Yang Lihui

0:48:100:48:15

In China, the New Year can start from, like,

0:48:180:48:21

the middle of January then to the end of February.

0:48:210:48:25

And this lunar cycle repeats itself every 12 years.

0:48:260:48:30

One animal represents each year,

0:48:310:48:34

so totally 12 animals represents 12 years.

0:48:340:48:38

The animals include the horse, goat,

0:48:420:48:46

tiger, rooster, dog, pig,

0:48:460:48:50

and, of course, the monkey.

0:48:500:48:52

I was born in March 1979, what does that make me?

0:48:540:48:58

Your Zodiac animal is the goat.

0:48:580:49:00

Well, I eat a lot, so I'm like a goat.

0:49:000:49:03

That means you are very gentle and very patient.

0:49:030:49:09

Well, my wife won't tell me I'm patient!

0:49:090:49:11

OK! You are very persistent.

0:49:110:49:13

Yeah.

0:49:130:49:15

Depending on what animal you are,

0:49:160:49:18

the New Year ahead could bring good or bad news.

0:49:180:49:21

So, what will the Year of the Monkey bring?

0:49:240:49:26

The Monkey year is generally believed to be really good,

0:49:260:49:31

and every people have different ambitions

0:49:310:49:34

-and different dreams will all come true this year.

-Oh, wow!

0:49:340:49:37

-So it's a really positive year?

-A really good year.

0:49:370:49:40

Life in China is changing fast, but despite all this modernisation,

0:49:420:49:47

at this time of year, people still seem to care about

0:49:470:49:51

the ancient philosophy of the Chinese Zodiac.

0:49:510:49:54

-I am a monkey.

-Right.

-So this is my year.

0:49:570:50:00

So I am guessing that I am going to have a pretty lucky year this year.

0:50:000:50:04

Ah, not so quick, Humble. Actually, when it's your year

0:50:040:50:07

-it's believed you are going to get more bad luck.

-Really?

-Yeah.

0:50:070:50:10

-How come?

-It's because the Chinese think that's this year you are going

0:50:100:50:13

to offend the God of Age, Tai Sui.

0:50:130:50:15

Is there something you can do to appease the God Of Age,

0:50:150:50:18

-to make him less...

-To protect yourself?

-Yes, exactly!

0:50:180:50:21

-There's a few things you can do.

-Right.

-Just wear red.

-Oh, OK.

0:50:210:50:24

-I like red.

-Deck yourself out with the red. That's good, that's good.

0:50:240:50:27

In China right now you will see so much red. Red is a very auspicious colour.

0:50:270:50:30

I was going to say, it is really the colour of New Year, isn't it?

0:50:300:50:33

It is. It marks happiness, joy, luck. Actually, we've done you

0:50:330:50:36

a bit of a favour, I've got my personal shopping assistant. Hey!

0:50:360:50:39

Mr Ant.

0:50:390:50:41

-Stylist!

-Sorry, stylist!

0:50:410:50:44

Evidently. We've been busy.

0:50:440:50:46

-What have we got?

-Well, I've got Kate a hat, red hat.

0:50:460:50:49

-Lovely, yeah.

-This is good, a scarf.

-Loving the scarf.

-Look at that.

0:50:490:50:54

Hold on... Very nice, OK.

0:50:540:50:56

The piece de resistance...

0:50:560:50:59

Seriously?

0:50:590:51:01

Look at those! Lucky pants.

0:51:010:51:04

What girl can fail to be lucky in a pair of pants like these?

0:51:040:51:08

Well, actually, I have to say

0:51:080:51:10

I have already been extremely lucky because I went to the mountains

0:51:100:51:14

of Yunnan Province down in the southwest and saw one of the

0:51:140:51:18

rarest animals in the world,

0:51:180:51:20

and it was particularly pertinent for this year.

0:51:200:51:23

In the southwest of the country lies Yunnan Province,

0:51:260:51:30

a magnificent blend of striking landscapes and incredibly diverse

0:51:300:51:34

cultural heritage.

0:51:340:51:36

Half of China's 55 ethnic minorities call this area home.

0:51:390:51:43

And high up in the remote Yunling Mountains

0:51:460:51:49

lies the Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve,

0:51:490:51:52

home to the iconic snub-nosed monkey.

0:51:520:51:55

They are one of China's most elusive animals,

0:51:570:51:59

with only 2,000 of them left in the wild.

0:51:590:52:02

I'm going to try and find these rare creatures that live far higher than

0:52:030:52:07

any other monkey on Earth, on mountains that reach 5,000 metres.

0:52:070:52:13

Sharing the mountainous land up here

0:52:160:52:19

with the monkeys are the Lisu people.

0:52:190:52:22

Traditionally a mountain tribe,

0:52:220:52:24

they are the rangers who take care of these special primates.

0:52:240:52:28

We've followed the rangers up. It's quite... You lose your breath!

0:52:280:52:32

You suddenly realise how high up you are.

0:52:320:52:35

ANIMALS WHISTLE

0:52:350:52:37

You might be able to hear whistling from within the forest.

0:52:370:52:40

That is some of the rangers from the reserve,

0:52:400:52:43

and every morning they come out here to feed...

0:52:430:52:46

Oh, my goodness!

0:52:460:52:48

SHE LAUGHS

0:52:480:52:49

And I have just seen my very first

0:52:490:52:53

Yunnan snub-nosed monkey.

0:52:530:52:55

There's only about 2,000 or 3,000

0:52:570:52:59

of these animals left in the whole of China.

0:52:590:53:01

Mr Yu has been working at the reserve for over 20 years.

0:53:030:53:07

He has a unique bond with the monkeys and is responsible

0:53:070:53:10

for their daily feed.

0:53:100:53:12

He is now accepted almost as family.

0:53:150:53:18

But anyone else, like me, has to keep their distance,

0:53:180:53:21

so as not to pass on infections.

0:53:210:53:23

The reason that they feed these monkeys is to be able to monitor

0:53:250:53:30

the population. And that allows the rangers to see how healthy they are

0:53:300:53:35

and, crucially, to protect them.

0:53:350:53:39

The reason that these monkeys' numbers dropped

0:53:390:53:42

to such critical levels was because they were hunted.

0:53:420:53:45

There is a lovely story that connects the Lisu

0:53:460:53:49

with this particular monkey.

0:53:490:53:52

The legend has it that a small Lisu boy got lost in the forest

0:53:520:53:58

and couldn't find his out, and the longer he stayed in the forest,

0:53:580:54:02

he started to grow hair to keep him warm.

0:54:020:54:05

And the hairier he got,

0:54:050:54:07

the more embarrassed he became to approach people.

0:54:070:54:11

And so he stayed in the forest and turned into a snub-nosed monkey.

0:54:110:54:16

TRANSLATION:

0:54:220:54:25

There's a very first special relationship, I think,

0:54:340:54:36

between the Lisu people and these monkeys.

0:54:360:54:39

Since you've been working here,

0:54:490:54:51

have you seen the population here grow and get healthier?

0:54:510:54:55

Wow! That's amazing. That's a really good job.

0:55:030:55:05

Part of the Lisu rangers' job on the preserve is to monitor

0:55:070:55:10

the health of these primates,

0:55:100:55:12

which means collecting their poo at regular interviews.

0:55:120:55:16

Mr Yu and his colleagues collect this every day and analyse it,

0:55:170:55:24

and by doing so they can tell a lot about the health of the monkeys

0:55:240:55:28

and also about the population density.

0:55:280:55:31

But it's not that easy to find.

0:55:310:55:34

Aha!

0:55:400:55:42

I found some, here.

0:55:420:55:43

Never has a girl been so excited to find a bit of poo.

0:55:480:55:52

Mr Yu knows each individual monkey and is able to label up the bags.

0:55:520:55:58

So you know which monkey did this?

0:55:580:56:02

That's amazing!

0:56:080:56:10

The monkey faeces are examined in a special study centre.

0:56:150:56:19

One of the purposes of this centre is to check the health of the

0:56:190:56:23

snub-nosed monkeys.

0:56:230:56:25

So, what is the scientist testing for?

0:56:250:56:30

TRANSLATION:

0:56:300:56:32

So, it's good news? Fantastic.

0:56:590:57:02

I have to say, seeing those monkeys in the wild - and they are so rare -

0:57:060:57:11

definitely a highlight for me.

0:57:110:57:12

-How about you?

-Well, it feels like I crammed so much in,

0:57:120:57:15

and turning on the Kremlin was really special,

0:57:150:57:17

but the highlight has to be being victorious the ice slide.

0:57:170:57:20

I knew you were going to say that!

0:57:200:57:22

-What about you?

-It's got to be the ancient fireworks.

0:57:220:57:25

To see bits of metal turn into something so amazing and huge

0:57:250:57:29

and to be showered in it - yeah, it was insane.

0:57:290:57:31

It was absolutely spectacular. And talking of fireworks,

0:57:310:57:35

Ant and I are heading south to Hong Kong for a parade

0:57:350:57:38

and what promises to be the most spectacular fireworks display

0:57:380:57:42

either of us have either ever seen. But for now, from the three of us,

0:57:420:57:46

it's goodbye from Harbin and hello to the Hairy Bikers in Beijing.

0:57:460:57:51

Yeah. Thanks, Kate. Tomorrow we'll be in the Chinese capital

0:57:510:57:54

to bring you the hustle, the bustle

0:57:540:57:56

and even the gristle of the Spring Festival in Beijing.

0:57:560:58:00

And we'll be focusing on New Year's Eve.

0:58:000:58:02

New Year's Eve in China is about family and food

0:58:020:58:06

and we've been honoured to be invited by a lovely Chinese family

0:58:060:58:09

to spend it in their home with them.

0:58:090:58:11

We'll be helping prepare the most important meal of the year,

0:58:110:58:15

and spending the day gathering the ingredients for a healthy, wealthy,

0:58:150:58:20

lucky and prosperous 2016.

0:58:200:58:24

So join us tomorrow for more Chinese New Year celebrations.

0:58:240:58:28

-BOTH:

-Hey! Hey!

0:58:280:58:30

The first episode, presented by Kate Humble, Jing Lusi and Ant Anstead, follows the weeks leading up to New Year and is based at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival - an extraordinary sub-zero celebration in China's far north east. It is an ice wonderland, full of people braving the cold, diving into frozen water and enjoying themselves at minus 30 degrees.

The three of them also experience the New Year transport rush and crush in Beijing, following an Anglo-Chinese family back to China, joining the crush at Beijing's West Station and battling through Beijing traffic.

2016 is the year of the monkey, and Kate goes in search of the extremely rare snub-nosed monkeys of Yunnan. She goes on a poo hunt, looking for monkey faeces to test for their health. Jing experiences the spectacular showers of sparks from ancient fireworks made from molten metal by Mr Xue, the last practitioner of this dying craft, whose only protection is a sheepskin coat and a straw hat. Ant finds out how an entire ice city is made from just frozen river water, sculpted to make full-sized buildings that are illuminated beautifully at night.

Meanwhile, the Hairy Bikers Dave and Si join the largest motorbike flotilla on earth as thousands of migrant workers in Guangdong province head for home as New Year approaches - it is an extraordinary scene as workers from the city go back to their home villages, often for the only time in a year. The Bikers join the volunteers helping the motorcyclists as they head carefully back home on bikes loaded high with people and presents.