Miss China won the coveted title of Miss World on Saturday, triumphing on home soil during a glitzy final held Ordos, a city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
The mostly Chinese audience erupted in cheers, and fireworks lit up the sky, when it was announced that the home candidate, Yu Wenxia, had been awarded the coveted title.
"When I was young I felt very lucky because so many people helped me, and I hope in the future I can help more children to feel lucky," Yu, a 23-year-old aspiring music teacher said when asked why she should be crowned.
Yu, who became China's second Miss World winner, appeared on stage in a dazzling array of ballgowns during the two-hour final and serenaded the audience with a rendition of a popular Chinese song.
Last year's Miss World, Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela, handed over her crown to Yu, who wore a sparkling blue dress, in the futuristic Dongsheng stadium in Ordos in north China.
Miss Mexico, Mariana Reynoso, had been the bookmakers' favorite for the title, but failed to make the last seven candidates despite a strong showing in the early rounds of the pageant. Miss Wales, Sophie Moulds, came in second, while Miss Australia, Jessica Kahawaty, finished third.
The final, watched by a worldwide TV audience of an estimated 1 billion viewers, included a nod to the culture of Inner Mongolia, with a performance by a group of musicians playing the erhu, a traditional two-stringed instrument.
Ordos, which sits about 700 km from the nearest beach, was an unlikely setting for the world's biggest beauty pageant. On the edge of the Gobi desert, the city has grown rich over the past decade on the back of a coal mining boom that has transformed it into one of the wealthiest places in China.
However, enthusiastic competitors seemed unfazed by the locale, expressing optimism that with the help of the pageant, the city could leave its reputation behind and take its place alongside other global centers of glitz and glamour.
"Ordos could be the next Dubai," Marielle Wilkie, representing the Caribbean nation of Barbados, confidently predicted.
Albanian contestant Floriana Garo chimed in with her own bold statement. "In 10 years, this city will be booming," she said.
Architecture in Ordos is "world class", added Markysa O'Loughlin, representing St. Kitts and Nevis, also in the Caribbean.
Contestants churned yoghurt in a nomad's yurt and donned local dress to climb sand dunes during their month-long stint in China. Video clips shown during the final showed the beauty queens posing in swimwear on desert sand dunes.
A total of 116 contestants the highest ever number to take part took to the stage during the final in a variety of stunning gowns.
A red ceremonial flag was passed over to representatives from the Indonesian island Bali, hosts of the 2013 Miss World Final, during the ceremony.
Agence France Presse