Beichuan County, battered in the magnitude 8.0 earthquake on May 12 in Sichuan Province, was opened on Monday for survivors to hold memorial ceremonies for the dead.
More than 20,000 people, mostly of the Qiang ethnic group, came back to the county which had been isolated since late May to prevent epidemic
"Beichuan is an autonomous county of the Qiang minority group, who observe the custom of holding ceremony for the deceased on the 100th day of their departure," said Qu Yong'an, deputy head of the county.
"We understand that and open the county for the day."
It was raining on Tuesday, making it even more difficult to walk on the rugged paths.
An elderly woman, together with her daughter and daughter-in-law, came to a collapsed building near a bus station. A mere look at the ruins was enough to make her tearful.
"We come to see you," she said, referring to her husband and granddaughter, both lost in the quake. "Our daughter and daughter-in-law have jobs now. Don't be worried."
The Beichuan Middle School was the site of most of the memorial ceremonies.
A girl and her parents went to the smashed school to mourn their lost family member.
"This may be where our daughter had been," the father said, after finding a class plate marked "Grade One" in the ruins.
The girl brought out some fruit and snacks, her little sister's favorite, she said. The mother brought a pair of insoles which she had sewed for three nights.
"Sister, you can be assured that I will take care of dad and mom," the girl said. The parents were too sad to say a word.
To help the survivors mourn their lost family members, the local government circulated a notice that the county would be open for the day.
It even rented 30 buses to transport those who were mostly living in Mianyang City to the scene, free of charge.
"To live a better life is the biggest comfort for the dead," Zhang Zhoukai, a county government official, said. "What we can do now is to try our very best to build our new homes."
The county, now all ruins, lost more than 15,000 lives and had thousands of others missing in the quake.
(Xinhua News Agency August 20,2008)