An insight into the massive annual celebration. Dave Myers and Si King experience New Year's Eve in Beijing, and Jing Lusi goes behind the scenes at CCTV's Chunwan Gala.
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Yahoo! Welcome to China!
It's New Year's Eve
and we're here at Houhai Lake in China's capital city, Beijing.
When the lake is frozen over,
families love to come and have fun on the ice during the holidays.
Now, the Spring Festival, as it's known in China,
sees the largest annual mass migration of people on the planet
as over a sixth of the world's populace travel home
to celebrate with their loved ones.
And the most significant night of the festivities is New Year's Eve,
or Chuxi, as it's known in Mandarin.
Traditionally, this is when families get together to eat,
drink and celebrate,
so Dave and I are going to find out what it's like to be
at the world's biggest party,
as over a billion people sit down to the most important dinner
of the year.
And here's what's coming up.
Over the next hour, we'll be based here in Beijing,
finding out how Chinese people experience New Year's Eve
as they take time off and relax with friends and family.
Good luck for everybody.
Down south in Hong Kong,
Kate Humble will be at the Wong Tai Sin Temple
as it prepares for its busiest night of the year.
-Is it like this every year?
-Yes, every year.
Ant Anstead visits a distillery in the heart of China...
..to find out about the world's best-selling spirit.
Happy New Year.
Jing Lusi will be behind the scenes at the Chunwan Gala,
the most watched annual television show on earth.
Through these doors is the main stage,
and they're about to do the performance of a lifetime.
And we'll be seeing what a traditional New Year's Eve is like
with a Chinese family right here in Beijing.
-Chinese New Year.
-It is great.
Mountains of food will be eaten...
..a giant bell will be rung...
..and thousands of firecrackers will hit the night sky.
And we'll be there to experience it all first-hand.
Welcome to Chinese New Year!
For the Chinese people, family time together is precious,
so they don't waste any opportunity
to get out and have fun on Houhai Lake.
And you don't have to be an ice skater to have a go.
There's all sorts of bonkers equipment you can rent.
You can get an ice sled. You can get ice rickshaws.
-But, being hairy bikers, predictable as ever,
we've gone for ice bikes.
But before we go any further,
here's a few things that you need to know about Beijing.
The word "Beijing" actually means "Northern Capital".
The city lies at the north-east of the country,
surrounded by desert and mountains.
Beijing is China's second-largest city
and home to 21 million people
and some of the most jaw-dropping architecture on the planet.
It's the nation's cultural, political and financial centre,
and an economic powerhouse.
Millions pour into the capital from all over the country
every year to seek their fortune.
Beijing has transformed enormously over the last decade to meet demand.
And some of its old ways have changed, too.
MUSIC: Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua
Well, you see, the Chinese, they love their cars.
And, well, to be fair, you don't see that many cyclists any more.
Ah, but hopefully things are going to change.
Due to a government bike-sharing initiative,
they want to put people back on the bike
and also make cycling, well, cool again.
HE RINGS BELL Oh, yeah.
Beijing is an important player on the global stage.
it will become the only city in the world ever to have hosted
both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games.
Its growing wealth and dynamism
has created an incredible population explosion
in an already expanding city.
In ten years, the number of people in Beijing has grown by 44%.
It's predicted the city's population will be 50 million by 2050,
which means every New Year's Eve celebration in Beijing
will just keep getting bigger.
This is what Chinese New Year is all about.
Loads of eating,
preferably surrounded by your nearest and dearest.
And the numbers are pretty impressive, too,
there being over 400 million Chinese households.
And tonight, we're sitting down to what's known as the reunion dinner,
the most important meal of the year.
And traditionally, many of these are in people's homes,
a bit like our Christmas dinner,
but there's a lot of socialising goes on during the Spring Festival.
Now, as a result,
the demand for restaurants right across Chinese cities is huge,
and street vendors in Beijing are no exception.
They're doing a roaring trade.
This is Wangfujing Market,
where you can get any delicacy you want,
from silkworms to scorpions...
Oh, to centipedes and spiders, Dave.
-Oh, look, there's something that jumps.
I'm not entirely sure whether I would prefer, just, like, a prawn.
-What's a prawn?
-Cockroach of the sea.
-Cockroach of the sea, with a fancy suit on.
Whatever floats your boat, it's here, because, you know what?
It's New Year. You're home to your family,
and you're going to have a lovely time.
To be fair, though, dude,
all these foods are for special occasions, aren't they?
And I'm just wondering what the Chinese equivalent is to,
say, well, like, you know, a bag of crisps.
It's funny you should say that,
-because I've just popped down to the Chinese newsagents...
-..and got us a few snacks.
-Oh, nice one, dude.
Have a crack at this one.
What do you think of that? I quite like it.
-That's dried squid.
-It's nice, it's savoury. It's all right.
-I quite like that.
-Guess what this is, mate.
Got it in one.
Now, this one, I'm really rather fond of.
-is meat floss.
Also known as hot strip, its proper name is latiao.
-Now, latiao is the most popular snack for under-25s in China.
And the market is worth an estimated 50 billion yuan per year.
-Crumbs. That's a lot of hot strip, that, dude.
-It's nice, though.
-Well, this market is just getting busy now,
but it's nothing compared to Beijing's
biggest wholesale food market.
and it's just getting geared up for New Year's Eve celebrations.
-Shall we go?
If there's one place that's the very soul
of Beijing's food culture, this must be it.
Imagine if all the fresh food
consumed by a city was all put together in one place.
Well, feast your eyes on this - the Xinfadi food market.
The biggest wholesale market in Asia.
This mammoth market sprawls over one square kilometre.
It provides 80% of all the agricultural produce
consumed in Beijing.
It's like a town that's dedicated to food.
-What could be better?
This food town has constant food traffic.
And to keep Beijing's 21 million people fed,
it has food neighbourhoods, too.
Some produce is so popular it has its own street.
Guess where we are.
This is Onion Street.
-And this is Marrow Street.
We're in the best market in Beijing.
It would be criminal not to cook up a traditional New Year feast.
Luckily, we're going to have a helping hand.
Local restaurateur Sue Zhou is from a long line of chefs,
so she knows old-school Chinese cookery inside out.
Do you love coming here?
Yes, it's really, really nice to be here.
It's a huge market, and you can get anything here.
-Like, anything you can think of, you can get it here.
The first thing Sue wants to show us is a Beijing cookery basic -
-Why have you brought us here, Sue?
-So, in Chinese, we call this baicai.
The cabbage. Chinese cabbage.
And the reason why we love to eat it during Chinese New Year
is if you pronounce it slightly different,
it means "100 fortunes" in Chinese.
-It's more like a poem than a meal.
So, we're going to cook a hotpot.
Is it like a really traditional dish here?
It is, yeah. OK. Success with the shopping.
-Brilliant. Can't wait. Thanks.
Sue's given us a list of hotpot ingredients to find in the market -
lotus root, mushrooms and beef.
There's no stalls, as such.
The trucks rock up, they sell the veg, they go home.
That's how it works.
-He's sold out.
-Have you sold out?
Oh, good. Very good.
-Hello, how are you?
-How are you?
-Very good. How are you?
Do you know what? There's a real happy atmosphere here, isn't there?
So, Sue wants us to get lotus root.
Look at that. That man is, like, living in a swamp
of his own making.
-Go on, Dave, get stuck in.
-Right. Can I have three?
Now, Dave calls this a hard-nosed haggling technique.
How much? Oh!
I call it handing over the dosh, no questions asked.
-20? Oh, it's two quid, I suppose.
Just as well it's as reasonably priced as it is fresh.
Thank you. Thank you.
Onto the next item on Sue's list...
Look at them, Si. They're like velvet.
They look like people's ears.
You know, like you when you played rugby, your cauliflower ears.
Get loads, these are superb.
There's one more item left to buy,
and that means heading deep into the heart of the market.
This is Beijing's meat hangar.
In the West, we tend to design a meal around our choice of meat,
but traditional Chinese cooks use meat more like a garnish.
-There's such a lot of choice.
Now, I know my beef,
but finding the right cut for Sue's recipe isn't as easy as you'd think.
It's hard to recognise the joints.
That silverside, isn't it?
-Silverside would be good, wouldn't it?
-Yeah. We could do that, yeah.
Can we have this, please? Thank you.
-Thank you. Happy New Year.
Well, it was a bit of a mission, but we finally tracked down
and bought everything on the list.
And once we find Sue's restaurant, we can get cooking.
Tucked away in the depths of Old Beijing,
Sue's place is the perfect homely spot to enjoy
a traditional New Year hotpot.
So, what would you like us to do?
So, we're going to slice it up.
As we chop up all those lovely Chinese veggies...
-There it is, look at that.
-The design of that is brilliant.
It's like a hardened loofah.
..we get a hearty broth on the boil.
And then in goes our beef.
Just, like, drop it in here.
It's like a Chinese fondue.
-It's stuck there.
The pot wants to have your piece of beef!
It's sheer and utter genius, this.
-It's theatre, isn't it?
I think it's done, yeah.
It's time to let the New Year feasting begin.
-What are you guys going for?
Is it true that the Chinese like a bit of chew,
like a little bite in food?
Yes, we call it QQ, which is like chewiness.
-Like, if it bounces back...
-..that texture, we really like.
Cooking and eating together at the table is just fantastic.
No wonder this is a New Year favourite.
-This would be a great thing to do at home.
Just get yourself a little burner, a little pot,
get the family around, don't burn yourself.
It might not be as good as at Sue's though.
Definitely, undoubtedly not.
Another popular market at Chinese New Year
is Beijing's flower market.
The Chinese love to buy blooms during the Spring Festival
to decorate their homes.
Thousands of flowers are brought into Chinese cities every day
at this time of year.
Kate Humble has been exploring
some of the biggest flower farms in China.
-In the far south of the country lies Kunming,
China's Spring City.
Its warm and temperate climate has made this city the centre
of the flower industry.
Kunming and the surrounding area
supplies 70% of all the flowers sold in China.
I've come to one of the largest flower farms in the area, Jinyuan.
I've never seen anything like it.
It's more like a factory than a farm.
Every single thing grown here is grown under plastic
in these polytunnels, and they stretch for 500 acres.
The farm produces an unbelievable seven million flowers every year.
Demand peaks in the run-up to Chinese New Year.
During this time, they buy flowers like a gift
and to celebrate.
-You've got beautiful yellow, red, pink behind us.
Is there a particular colour that's particularly important
for Chinese New Year?
It's a lovely place to work, surrounded by beautiful flowers.
-You feel very happy..
-..the whole day.
This is big business, worth up to 30 million Chinese yuan per year.
That's over £3 million.
That one. OK.
They need to be...
They need to be the same length?
Right down there, yeah?
OK. Got it.
These ladies have been cutting roses all their working lives.
They live locally to the farm, and apparently,
they cut between 3,000 and 5,000 roses every morning.
Right down there?
I asked them if they grow flowers at home, but they don't.
Vegetables - much more practical.
So, the harvesting happens just as the heads are starting to open up.
And they're cut really far down so you get these lovely long stems.
And there seems to be a way of bunching them,
which I think I might have messed up already.
Once the roses are cut, they come in here to be sorted,
and that's what I'm doing.
Basically, they're sorted by stem length,
and once that's happened
they get moved over to the packing area.
And they're packed in sort of... carefully wrapped in cardboard,
so you have a line of five blooms, cardboard folds over,
another five blooms, and that's one pack.
All really carefully protected.
80% of the farm's roses are sold back in the city
at the Kunming International Flora Auction Trading Centre -
one of the biggest auctions in Asia.
This is where wholesalers go to buy large quantities of flowers
at cheap prices.
This is the main flower auction in Yunnan,
and flowers from all over the province will come here.
There are about 100 different varieties,
and as it gets closer to Chinese New Year,
the pace just picks up exponentially.
They've had to bring in 500 students just to go through all the flowers,
count them, check them,
and pack them into these orange crates.
The smell here is unbelievable.
It's not highly perfumed,
but it's just this amazing smell of, kind of, fresh-cut wood.
It's just wonderful.
This vast space serves as a viewing room
which gives potential buyers the opportunity
to inspect the flowers before bidding on them.
What tells you that these are good and that you want to buy them?
In 2014, over 750 million fresh-cut flowers
were sold through here.
I'm used to agricultural auctions,
but this is quite unlike anything I've ever seen before.
This is an absolutely fascinating process.
I don't think I've ever been to an auction like this.
I'm used to kind of buying sheep.
Here, it's a bit like taking part in some sort of weird game show.
Everyone's sitting in front of these little consoles.
There is a man talking, but you have to wear headphones to listen to him.
And, obviously, I don't understand a word he's saying.
Unlike auctions that we're used to in Britain, this is a Dutch auction.
This means that the auction begins at a high asking price,
which is lowered until it reaches a price
that someone is willing to pay.
The orange dot represents the price.
When the dot stops, someone has bought a batch of blooms.
On average, a lot is sold every three seconds.
But it's crucial to hold your nerve until the price is right.
There's a real sense of concentration.
Quite a lot of smoking going on.
There's quite a lot of sort of nervous energy in the air.
The cheapest flowers can go for as little as 1p,
but these bidders will be buying in the hundreds and thousands.
Luckily, to help make sense of the bewildering numbers and lights,
I've got some help from a seasoned bidder.
-This is Mr Xiang. Mr Xiang, hello.
He's kind of adopted me. He's been showing me how to do it.
And very unwisely, has lent me his credit card.
Mr Xiang is buying a variety of roses for his store in Beijing.
What do you think?
Only on number one? All right.
I've got one!
Quite a lot of money.
It appears I've just bought Mr Xiang 200 Carola roses at 10p each.
I'm going to have to walk home at this rate.
All the way back to the UK!
It's so quick!
They're quick, these guys.
At peak times, like in the run-up to the New Year,
five million flowers can be sold here every day.
That's over 3,000 every minute.
I've got 100 at .81.
-Was that a good one?
I could come and work for you, Mr Xiang.
You'd have no money!
Despite my help,
Mr Xiang purchases between 6,000 to 7,000 roses
at the total cost of 8,000 yuan, which is around £860.
These flowers will be sold to customers the very next day,
all ready for the New Year's Eve celebrations.
Back in Beijing, we're in one of the oldest parts of the city,
the Bell Tower.
It's been on this site since 1420. That's nearly 600 years old.
That's a long time. Look at the view. Wow!
Now, look, Beijing has changed a lot,
but it still has some of its ancient buildings.
And what you can see right over there, that is the Drum Tower,
which is in direct line of sight from here, the Bell Tower.
The Bell Tower, it houses this gigantic bronze bell.
It weighs in at a whopping 63 tonnes,
and it plays a vitally significant part
in the New Year's Eve celebrations.
Precisely at 12 o'clock on the dot, it's struck.
It's a bit like Beijing's Big Ben, and that lets the New Year in.
Now, the bell is struck by a big wooden ram
in the shape of a whale.
It's struck 108 times,
because that's significant as a lucky number for the Chinese.
-Now, there is a point, though - we can't strike the bell.
The reason being that some time ago,
the bell-ringers were practising.
The city thought there was an earthquake, or some such disaster,
so there's no ringing the bell until New Year's Eve.
But, you know, it is an incredible feat of engineering.
-First - this is 600 years ago -
the bell, the model was made in butter and beeswax.
How mad is that?! Butter and beeswax!
And then a massive pit was dug,
and they worked from the top to the bottom.
They cast it, and poured 63 tonnes of molten bronze into that cast.
And I for one can't wait to hear that bell sound on New Year's Eve.
Talking of which, dude, we've got a party to get ready for.
Across town, a local family
have invited us to spend New Year's Eve with them,
and they've already started their preparations.
Like most Beijingers, Zhang Yen leads a busy modern life.
But each spring,
she and her family take a break to indulge in the traditions
that make this time of year so special.
Chinese New Year is the most important festival
in Chinese culture.
It is a festival that requires the whole family to get together,
so it gives us a concept of reunion.
Me and my husband are going to celebrate together with my parents,
and my sister, her whole family.
In the first five days of the New Year,
we're not supposed to do any cleaning,
so, before that, the whole house needs to be thoroughly cleaned,
and everyone in the family should get involved.
This year is special to our family
cos we have a few monkeys in the family,
cos this is the Year of the Monkey.
My mum, my sister, my brother-in-law and uncle and auntie,
they're all monkeys, so this is really their year.
While Yen and her sister pick up some last-minute decorations
from the market, the men of the family,
including three-year-old Zhiyuan, have an important appointment.
There is an interesting tradition that we need to have our haircut
before the Chinese New Year day.
But there's more to the traditional haircut than just looking your best.
Because in China we believe that if we have a haircut in the first month
of the New Year, then it will do harm to maternal uncle's health.
I don't personally understand why it has anything with the poor uncle!
As the Year of the Monkey is particularly important to Yen's family,
they're having some special decorations handmade.
Paper scrolls are normally put up on both sides of the doorway.
There are certain strict rules to mirror the words.
Like, if there is a character on the left-hand side saying "sky",
then they should be another one on the right-hand side saying "ground".
And if there is rain, there's wind.
If there is red, there's green.
So, it's kind of a thing that brings good blessing
and good wishes for the New Year.
This is the pair for our family, and here is us,
standing over the old year with three sheep.
And this one says, "Welcoming the new spring with six monkeys."
And Yen is with us now.
Yen, thank you so very much for the invitation.
Dave and I are really honoured that we're going to be celebrating
-New Year with your family.
-Now, we want to be the perfect guests.
So what can we do to help?
Um, you know, there's a saying in Chinese,
for the New Year, especially.
Meaning a dumpling with baijiu -
the more you eat or drink, the richer you'll be.
-Sounds like our sort of party, that!
-It does. Baijiu.
So, if you don't mind bringing some baijiu in for us,
-that would be perfect.
-Well, that's a perfect job for us, dude.
-We'll get the booze. Baijiu?
-Right, OK, we'll do that.
-And we'll see you a bit later on.
-Yeah, see you later.
Where's Dave gone? Oi!
-What on earth are you doing?
Kingy, I'm square dancing!
-I'm square dancing.
Or technically speaking, it's guangchang wu.
-Oh, is it really?
What it is, it's what all the participants in the community
like to do to keep fit in China.
It started 20 years ago.
And, you know, it's so popular now more than 100 million Chinese people
practice guangchang wu every day.
Oh, well, I can see that all that work on Strictly
didn't go amiss then.
No, not at all.
So, it's kind of like t'ai chi and, like, swing dancing,
that type of thing.
Anyway, look, we've got a job on. Come here!
-How's my dancing going?
-Dancing, very good!
-Very good, very good.
I'm going to take him away now
-because we've got a job on for New Year's Eve.
-Kung hei fat choi.
We've got to go and buy booze...
Listen, twinkle toes,
you seem to have forgotten we've got to get a bottle of the local tipple,
baijiu, to bring to the party tonight.
You're right, Kingy. We have to be certain we don't take any old plonk.
-Well, we want to make sure that we're buying the right baijiu...
..so we need expert help, and we've found it
in the shape of Simon Dang,
who's the co-owner of this baijiu bar.
Now, Simon, what is baijiu?
Well, baijiu is a big classification,
and literally it means white spirit.
Let's say you had gin, vodka and, say, schnapps,
all in one category called white spirits.
Right. So, what do we have here, Simon?
This is the strong aroma.
-This is probably the most popular baijiu.
It's from the Sichuan area, and it's blended and fermented,
and blended and fermented.
I think it has a complex flavour to it.
Are these baijiu glasses?
These are our official baijiu glasses, yes.
Oh! What's "cheers"?
It means "dry glass" - you've got to drink the whole thing.
-I like that.
I love this little glass. I feel as though I'm in Lilliput.
It's dangerous because you can drink a lot of them really fast.
It goes down, it's got the fiery taste, but it has a cleaner finish.
-I really like that.
-I do. That's good.
-That is good.
And this one, you'll see, has the light aroma, the Fenjiu.
So, this is popular in the North.
It's made with also some rice and also sorghum.
Well, very different on the nose.
On the nose as well, yeah.
And this one actually has more of a funky flavour to it, actually.
Some people have described it as kind of like a blue cheese
-kind of a taste to it.
Whoa! Baijiu! Never mind baijiu, by jove!
Hee! That's, erm... Yes.
There is a taste...
-There's a small...
-Like a burn, yes.
There's a small explosion just underneath your diaphragm.
-I like that!
-It does give you a small levitation, a lift.
-I've just lost the power of speech.
Now, back to the job in hand.
We need a baijiu that we can take on New Year's Eve,
and we're cooking dumplings.
Which one goes well with dumplings?
I would recommend a light aroma,
so you could go with this Shanxi Fenjiu.
The light aroma is the most popular in the Beijing area.
Righto, mission accomplished. It's the light baijiu for us.
Meanwhile, Ant Anstead has been at
one of the oldest distilleries in China
to unravel the mysteries of baijiu.
-Baijiu is a tradition that is centuries old...
..and full of secrets.
Sichuan Province is famous for its fiery food,
but the city of Luzhou is also home to strong-aroma baijiu.
Pure water from the surrounding Phoenix Mountains
has long been a key part of the distilling process here.
I've come to the country's longest continually running distillery,
here in Luzhou Laojiao.
Here, they've been making baijiu for nearly 450 years.
The baijiu here is famous for its fierce liquorice flavours.
Letting me in on the secret is Anna Chen.
-This is our workshop.
What an amazing space.
It's a real hive of activity.
It's like a fiery inferno bursting with fumes.
Laojiao baijiu is made out of a grain called sorghum
which is constantly recycled.
Used sorghum is mixed with fresh grains for each batch,
meaning the drink has been flavoured with grains that are centuries-old.
Water, yeast and microbes begin the fermentation process.
-So, there's microbes...
and it gets put in the pit and it ferments?
-So, how long does that take?
-Three to six months.
Some of these ancient pits have been in continuous use since 1573,
and have passed through centuries of China's tumultuous history -
from imperial dynasties to Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
After fermentation, the powerful blend is transferred
into large distilling vats.
So, basically, he's spreading it out inside here...
-..and then this gets heated up and boiled.
How long will it be in the boiler for?
About 30 minutes.
-Just 30 minutes?
Steam rises up through the fermented sorghum,
and finally condenses into this mighty drink.
I've been invited by one of the distillery workers
to a local restaurant to learn the special art of drinking baijiu.
Thanks to Confucius,
etiquette is a vital part of Chinese life,
so there are centuries-old rituals that need to be observed.
So, you're the host. What's your role?
As a host, we will toast three times.
Once the host has toasted three times,
it seems fair game for anyone else to raise their glass.
Guests always come first.
So, what if you're on a table with 20 people?
20 people, then one by one.
Baijiu is generally brought out for formal occasions and celebrations.
It's just as well, because some of us are struggling to keep up.
-Are you OK?
So, when you're in having business meetings,
do you drink for a business meeting?
How do you get any work done?
In modern China, baijiu is an essential part
of business etiquette.
And once you're in a toasting round, it's tricky to get out.
It sounds like a drinking game.
It's not actually a drinking game. It's drinking tradition.
If you want to play some drinking games, five, ten.
-No. This is drinking games.
Last time I played a drinking game, I ended up naked.
I think I better leave the baijiu to the experts.
-Happy New Year.
-Happy New Year. Happy New Year.
-Happy New Year.
-Back in Beijing,
people are making their preparations
for tonight's New Year celebrations.
And we've had an invitation that's too good to turn down.
Now, look, as you well know,
there's one thing that Dave and I love to do on our travels,
and that's cook with local people in their homes.
There's never a more authentic experience
then seeing how things are done for real,
-and tonight is a special night.
It's New Year's Eve!
So, this is the equivalent of seeing how a family in the UK
would cook their Christmas dinner.
-I can't wait. I'm excited.
Yen, who invited us for dinner earlier,
has asked us to help her and her family make a traditional meal
for tonight's celebrations.
My uncle, my husband and brother-in-law.
Hello, sir. Very nice to meet you.
-Ni hao. Ni hao.
And this is my auntie and mum.
-They're starting the preparations for the dinner already.
We're going to be making one of my favourite things
in the whole world - dumplings.
Out in the dining room,
Yen's dad has already made a start on the filling for the dumplings.
So, there is the fennel going in and what else is there?
-Yeah, and mince.
-Is it pork?
-Yes, it is pork.
-It's great party food.
-Look at your face.
-They used to call me "Dumpling" when I was a baby.
-I think it was cause of the way I looked.
Dumpling Dave. I don't care, I'm happy.
I know you are, mate.
Right then, Dumpling Dave,
it's about time we got down to business.
-What do you think?
-Too right, Kingy.
I can't wait to get stuck in.
This is a masterclass in dumpling making.
-OK, I'll show you how to do this.
-So, you take the dough...
You just use, like, this bit.
And the shape of the dumpling is very significant, isn't it?
This shape of dumpling, exactly, when you see it,
-when I close it...
-..it looks like a Chinese golden ingot.
-That was currency in the old times.
Basically, the money.
So, that's why they say if you eat more dumplings
-you can make more money next year.
-I'm going to be rich next year.
-So, that's a good sign.
-You sure are.
-You've got a lot of filling in there, as well.
-They're not mean dumplings.
-No, they're not, are they?
Remember to turn your ends up.
Yeah, it's a bit difficult the first time when you try this.
Yeah, that one is great.
We tend to put it this way.
In a circle, that means reunion to us.
-There's so much tradition...
-..in Chinese culture, isn't there?
Especially at this time, Chinese New Year.
Ah, I've got the crimp now. That's it.
She loves it.
If Claudia Schiffer was a dumpling, she'd be that one.
Looks more like Quasimodo.
No, it's not. That one's cracking.
Yours looks like Frank Bruno.
Yeah, fair enough.
"Yeah, fair enough, Harry!"
In the old times, we used to put a coin inside,
so anyone in the family eats that one
means this person gets the best luck in the whole year.
-So, that's the magic dumpling.
-Yeah, but this...
-So, in England...
..we have a tradition about putting a coin in the Christmas pudding.
So, whoever gets the Christmas pudding, it's the same.
Nowadays, we'd consider the hygienic part
and then we'd change it with peanuts.
But what happens if you've had too much baijiu to drink
and you just eat your peanut?
That's why we're going to put a few rather than just one.
Ah! I see!
Yen's mum puts the peanut in the lucky dumpling
and pops it on the plate.
Now, they're ready to cook in the steamer.
While the dumplings are steaming away, Yen's aunt
is cooking the rest of dinner.
Looks like it's going to be quite a feast.
But there's still work to be done.
We lend a hand laying the table ready for the big meal.
So, here we are, our favourite moment -
eating the food.
This is magnificent. Just tell us what's on the table.
-So, normally in the New Year's Eve
dinner like this, we must have a fish here.
This also has the similar pronunciation
of extra, wealthy, rich, so that means every year we have wealth.
Apart from that, we also should have chicken, duck, beef, pork.
Everything. Tofu, vegetables.
It means a plenty and rich life.
What a feast.
-And of course we've brought baijiu!
Is this a good one?
Have we done all right?
Top ten! Yay!
What an honour to be part of Yen's family New Year's celebrations.
They've made us feel right at home.
Is the moustache straight?
The dumplings are going down a treat and the drink is starting to flow.
You're not wrong there, mate.
-Bottoms up. Yeah.
To be perfectly honest,
it's the best New Year I've ever had.
And I've had a few.
-Oh, more dumplings. HE LAUGHS
He's full of baijiu and dumplings. That's it, he's in seventh heaven.
-This is lamb.
-The lamb ones.
Oh, right, OK.
Well, I think it's time for a toast.
And traditionally around a Chinese table
the toast goes to the host, and,
Yen, I think it's your uncle who's going to make the toast tonight.
-It's a great, great honour. Thank you very much.
A meal like this is a Chinese institution,
but there's one other institution that we simply can't miss.
And that's the Chunwan Gala.
I mean, it's the most-watched TV show on the planet,
and every household in China and beyond will be watching it.
And it's on the telly over there.
And here's Jing with a backstage pass.
JING LUSI: It's China's biggest party - TV on a huge scale.
The Chunwan Gala.
An epic extravaganza viewed by millions at New Year,
it is the most-watched TV show on earth.
Running live for four hours, each of the selected 1,000 acts
rehearse for up to a year to make the big night run like clockwork.
I've come to the national state TV broadcaster,
China Central Television,
on the day of their first dress rehearsal to discover
what goes into putting on such a huge production.
Now, incredibly, despite this being a Chinese institution
that has been going for over 30 years,
we're one of the very few foreign film crews that have ever been
allowed to film backstage at the event.
This is TV on a huge scale, and it's extraordinary.
The acts have been rehearsing relentlessly.
For many of them, this could be their big break.
The show features every type of Chinese entertainment including,
of course, martial arts.
After a very lengthy selection process,
Li Yuhai and his martial arts team from Shandong
heard they'd beaten the competition
and would be appearing on the show live to the nation.
Appearing on such a massive show,
every move will have to be absolutely perfect.
The pressure is immense.
Look at the little kids. Oh, they're so cute.
And this is an outfit and a half.
Oh, OK, OK.
With over a thousand performers and an even bigger army of crew
I've come to meet artistic director Lu Yitao
on the day of the first dress rehearsal.
So, this is the most-watched show in the entire world.
I mean, you must start with a lot of acts.
What you think about our martial arts guys?
I'm off to find Yihai and the boys.
It'll be their final run through before going into the full studio -
the last chance to pull all their practice together
before facing the cameras for the first time.
And now, finally it's their turn to do it in front of the cameras.
And that's it, they're in.
Through those doors is the main stage and they're about
to do the performance of a lifetime.
The vast production line is a huge logistics challenge
as over a thousand acts from all over China await
their slot in the main studio.
He's breathing so heavily.
Oh, thank you so much.
It's been great to meet you and good luck on the night, yeah?
-Happy New Year.
-Happy new year.
And on New Year's Eve,
all of China gets to see Yihai and his team's
Now, the gala is in full swing,
so just before we sit down to watch it,
there is one more Chinese tradition that we have to adhere to.
The family photo.
Right, Dave, go. Oh, you're there.
Here in Beijing, we're just hours away
from ringing in the new year.
Kate, meanwhile, in Hong Kong has a very different New Year
at one of the most incredible temples that you would ever see.
KATE HUMBLE: Nestled in the heart
of the only landlocked district in Hong Kong
is the astonishing Wong Tai Sin Temple...
..which is home to three religions -
Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.
This is one of the most popular temples in Hong Kong
and it draws huge numbers of people here every single day.
But on New Year's Eve, this place is absolutely heaving.
There could be as many as 100,000 people here in the evening.
People come here every day to make an offering of incense sticks
and to pray, but on New Year's Eve,
it's a particularly important day to come and to ask for health
and good fortune for the coming year.
What really brings the crowds to Wong Tai Sin
is the chance to have their fortune told
according to an ancient practice known as kau cim.
To tell your fortune,
you have to take a bamboo vessel filled with 100 prayer sticks
and shake it until one falls out.
That numbered stick is then interpreted by a fortune teller.
To take me through the process, I'm meeting Wilson Orr,
who has worked here for the past 30 years.
-You have to kneel down here.
-And then tell our God...
-..first of all, your name.
-Your date of birth.
-And then the question.
OK. So, this is going to be my secret.
You have no idea what I'm asking.
Perfect. And this is a number I always like.
Oh, that I like to hear.
-So, number 17.
Now, usually my numbered stick would be read by a fortune teller,
but this is Hong Kong -
a city where tradition meets technology
like nowhere else on earth,
and my fortune is going to be told by a machine.
-So, is this it?
-Yeah, this is the machine.
Well, in the old days, if you wanted the answer, of course,
we have the book.
But now we are using some new technology
to help to make life easier.
-And your God doesn't mind?
All you have to do is touch a sensor, select print here,
-and that's it.
-Yes, and the messages come here.
So, there it is. That is the answer to my question.
I'd love to tell you what it says, but it's a secret.
The temple might seem tranquil today,
but tonight, on New Year's Eve...
..it's a completely different story.
Thousands of people are queuing up outside the temple gates
getting ready to burn incense and make their wishes
to bring good fortune for the coming year.
The crowds are already gathering for this,
the most auspicious time of the New Year's celebrations
here in Hong Kong.
Do you think this year is going to be a good year for monkeys?
-Good luck for the monkey.
-Good luck for the monkey.
Well, now that I've met you, I think everything is going to be fine.
Yes, thank you.
Good luck for everybody.
So, how long have you been here so that you're at the front of the queue?
-Around two o'clock.
-So, you're going to queue for ten hours,
it's that important?
It's the lady in pink that I particularly like.
She's got this sort of very fluffy,
rather friendly looking cat on her sweatshirt, but her face says,
"No-one messes with me."
Now the crowd are really pushing forward.
There's going to be this almighty shove,
I think, to get right to the front of the queue.
I'm wondering if my wish earlier on
at this temple should have been that I don't get crushed tonight!
This evening, the temple opens at nine,
and being the first to enter and make an offering
is considered particularly lucky.
And these worshippers will stop at nothing to beat the crowd.
-Is it like this every year?
-Yes, every year.
Once they're inside, worshippers collect incense sticks.
The crowd is moving through with their unlit sticks
going through here and getting them lit,
and then they're walking back up towards the temple.
The sticks are placed at the temple's altars
whilst they wish for good fortune in the new year.
The incense smoke carries their messages to the gods.
For those most dedicated to attracting good luck,
there's the chance to make an especially auspicious offering
on the stroke of midnight.
The crowd here are waiting patiently.
Many of them have been here for five or six hours.
And here they come.
There's a real tangible sense of joy and achievement
that they've made it.
This clearly matters so much.
And that is "Happy New Year" from Hong Kong.
-Back in Beijing, the firecrackers are so loud
we're going to need subtitles.
Some might say it's about time!
It's a stunning end to our New Year's Eve in Beijing,
but the festivities will continue for another 15 days.
Tomorrow night, Kate will be bringing the show from Hong Kong.
Thanks, guys. Yes, tomorrow night and tonight
we'll be here in Hong Kong together joining the New Year's celebrations
which will be going on for the next couple of days.
I can promise you lion dancing,
a spectacular night parade and four-and-a-half tonnes of fireworks
lighting up the iconic Hong Kong skyline.
Don't even think about missing it.
It's amazing to think that the warmth,
intimacy and excitement we've experienced here
with Yen's family is just a tiny part
of the billion people letting off fireworks all over China.
What an incredible experience, eh, Kingy?
The Hairy Bikers Dave Myers and Si King take us to New Year's Eve in Beijing, following an extraordinary day in China's capital city. They experience life in the mega-city on this special day, from preparations at the bell tower, which can only ever ring on the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, to a Beijing family, the Zhangs, who are getting ready for the biggest family get-together of the year. The whole city comes to a halt as everyone gathers round dinner tables to tuck into the traditional reunion dinner.
Jing Lusi goes behind the scenes at what some call the world's most popular television show - CCTV's Chunwan Gala, watched by 800 million viewers. For the performers, this is a make-or-break opportunity. Kate Humble takes part in a huge flower auction in the warmer Yunnan province as bales of flowers - mostly lucky red roses - are sold to hit the shops in time for new year. Ant Anstead discovers how the spirit baijiu is made in 450-year-old pits and learns the subtle etiquette that surrounds its drinking.