China's television event of the year

China is celebrating the Year of the Horse - the first day on the new lunar calendar.

Many across the country will enjoy a week-long holiday, featuring generous banquets, visits with relatives and - at the centre of it all - China's television event of the year. Chinese Central Television's Spring Festival Gala is a four-hour variety show.

The gala features wholesome family entertainment - with a not-so-subtle patriotic message. This year's show featured singers from the People's Liberation Army and Chinese astronauts, warmly promoting the country's military and technological achievements.

Critics say the programme is cheesy and outdated - but for decades, it has played in the background of most Chinese homes at the apex of Chinese New Year, the hours leading up to midnight.

Thousands of people from all over the country participate in the show and an estimated 700 million people tune in to watch it.

Backstage ahead of Chinese state television's Spring Festival Gala in Beijing

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