The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have joined Lunar New Year celebrations marking the start of the Year of the Tiger.

Charles and Camilla were welcomed to London’s Soho district, the spiritual home of the capital’s Chinese community, for the colourful event.

The couple had red scarves placed around their necks when they first arrived – with the colour symbolising luck, joy, and happiness for the Chinese.

A traditional dragon dance was performed by acrobatic performers in the open air as hundreds gathered for the celebrations.

The Lunar New Year – beginning on February 1 – is the start of a two-week celebration and is the most important holiday for millions of people around the world.

During the festival, homes are festooned with red paper lanterns and families gather to share sumptuous feasts, enjoying symbolic dishes such as dumplings, representing gold ingots, and noodles, denoting long life.

Royal visit to Chinatown
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall watch a dragon dance during the celebrations (Justin Tallis/PA)

Ahead of the start of the Lunar New Year, Charles issued a message to those in China and across the globe marking the event.

He urged the world to create a better future for the next generation by living and working in “harmony with nature and the planet”.

In his message, the prince said: “As we enter the Year of The Tiger, known for courageous action and rising to challenge and adventure, I hope the whole world will make this a year of action.

“Together let’s create a better future for all our children by shifting the way we live and work to be in harmony with nature and the planet.”

Royal visit to Chinatown
The royal couple pose for a picture during the celebrations (Victoria Jones/PA)

During the visit, the couple stepped inside a building to see the work of calligrapher Dr Chan Cheng and tried their hand at the artform, writing the Chinese symbol for “harmony”, described by the expert as an auspicious gesture designed to bring happiness.

The visit was aimed as a boost to the community, whose businesses have suffered during the lockdowns and members have endured rising racist abuse as a result of the pandemic.

The prince joined a private roundtable meeting of senior police officers, community groups and other figures about the serious impact of hate crime, hearing how one police officer of Chinese heritage had suffered 12 incidents in the last year.

The duchess, meanwhile toured the basement offices of the Chinese Information and Advice Centre which provides free legal advice and advocacy to disadvantaged members of the community and supports victims of a range of issues from domestic abuse to racism.

She praised the centre’s volunteers telling them: “What would we do without our volunteers? The country would collapse: You are doing brilliant work.”

Edmond Yeo, the centre’s chairman who hosted the royal visit, said he was “so proud” of the community reaction to the royal visit.

Later the prince was given an icon of St Corona after he visited Dr Irina Bradley’s Metamorphosis icon exhibition at the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Mayfair, London.

Dr Bradley, who painted the artwork presented to Charles, is one of the UK’s leading iconographers and the prince told her he was “very impressed” as he strolled along a corridor admiring the works on display.

She said after the visit: “He is a lovely gentleman and he appreciates the traditional arts.

“He was delighted to see that so many students were here today as well.”