On this traditional Chinese festival for visiting family graves, nearly 100,000 Chinese from all over the world converged before the mausoleum of their common ancestor, Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor).
Among them were high-ranking officials, a Tibetan Living Buddha, celebrities from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), delegations from the Macao SAR and Taiwan Province, and many overseas Chinese.
The ceremony began with a 34-gun salute, representing China's 34 provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and special administrative regions.
The crowd, ranging from the elderly to toddlers, all bowed to the image of their ancestor and contributed flowers and sacrificial donations.
A Chinese-Filipino, Yang Shiliang, said that overseas Chinese are fascinated by China's opening up and growth, and are eager to seek their roots. Most of the 19 members of the Philippine delegation had come to China for the first time, specially to visit the Huangdi Mausoleum.
Another Chinese-Filipino, Wu Jiansheng, said all people with Chinese origin are connected with the same ancestors.
Wu cited a composition written by a Philippine middle school student, whose mother was Taiwanese: "When we saw Beijing won the bidding for the 2008 Olympics and He Zhenliang, the Chinese member on the International Olympic Committee's executive board hugging his colleague from Taipei, all my family members were moved to tears."
Ma Ronghua, from Taipei, capital of Taiwan Province, added, "We hope the motherland will be reunited soon, for we are all offspring of the same ancestors, Huangdi and Yandi (another legendary emperor of the Chinese nation)."
Li Tieying, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Peng Peiyun, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, are among those attending the ceremony.
After the ceremony, civil activities will be held spontaneously by villagers and other delegations from different areas in China, which will usually last for about four days.
Huangdi is regarded as the founder of the Chinese nation and culture. The sacrificial ceremonies started in 442 BC. The largest ceremony was held by Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty, with 180,000 people present.
During the Chinese people's war of resistance against Japanese aggression, the Communist Party of China and Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) jointly held ceremonies in memory of their common ancestor and prayed for peace.
From 1963 to 1978, the memorial ceremonies were called off, and were resumed in 1979. In 1993, Chinese President Jiang Zemin wrote an inscription for the Huangdi Mausoleum.
To meet the growing demand of Chinese both at home and abroad, the Chinese government started a restoration project in 1992, and in the same year set up a foundation to raise money for this project.
So far, donations from both at home and abroad have topped 70 million yuan (about US$8.43 million) and the total the government has spent on the restoration in recent years has reached 100 million yuan.
A Chinese-Malaysian, Li Musheng, said, "I've visited the mausoleum 12 times, and today I saw the grandest ceremony ever, which can better show off China's improved national strength and provide a center for Chinese across the world to gather around."
(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2002)