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Fireworks, temple bells greet 2009
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Huge crowds gathered under the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong for a countdown celebration that featured singing, dancing and a video of two Chinese sports superstars: champion hurdler Liu Xiang and Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets' center.

Yao met Liu in Houston, and the two friends decided to send their first new year's greeting to China.


Yao met Liu in Houston 

"We wish that every one of you will have a wonderful new year," they said. "We wish that your family gets together and enjoys a good time."

Yao said he appreciated the support of his fans, saying, "I wish to express my gratitude to you. With your support and encouragement, I can strive to fulfil my dreams on the court."

Liu delivered this new year's message: "Whatever difficulties come my way, I will always find hope and confidence in the support of my father and my family. I hope I can achieve many breakthroughs in 2009."

Among those in the audience at the event, which was sponsored by Coca-Cola, Finnish-Japanese Ryn-ichivohe was spending a nine-day holiday in Shanghai, touring and shopping. His hope for 2009 is for a more peaceful world. And he told Shanghai Daily he will be glad to see Barack Obama replace George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Celebrating the arrival of the new year at Longhua Temple, Wu Gang from Anhui Province told Shanghai Daily he hopes to get together with his family and live happily in 2009.

Wu, a security firm clerk, got married last year and hopes the global financial crisis won't cause much trouble.

Shibata Miho of Japan has been in Shanghai for five years and married a local man. She's been going to the Buddhist temple every year on New Year's Eve.

Working for a media company, Shibata worries about the economic situation and wishes for a smooth year ahead.

At the temple, many people tied red or golden ribbons with their written messages on branches of the "wishing tree."

Zhao Cheng, the abbot of the 1,790-year-old temple, also displayed a huge commemorative envelope for people to write down their wishes or sign their names.

Thousands of visitors including a tourism group from Japan signed the document, praying for good luck in the new year. It's the 20th anniversary for the temple to offer visitors a chance to ring its big bell. The temple also said it will donate 300,000 yuan (US$43,500) to charity.

(Shanghai Daily January 1, 2009)


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