More than 7,000 costumed performers and dozens of sumptuous giant floats staged an unprecedented Chinese New Year parade on the Avenue of Champs-Elysees in the center of Paris on Saturday.
Banging gongs, dancing dragons, acrobats, musicians and members of the local Chinese community organizations transformed the broad boulevard into a sea of red and gold, the traditional lucky colors, to usher in the Chinese New Year, and pay tribute to the Chinese culture.
For the first time, the legendary Champs-Elysees, known as "the most
beautiful avenue in the world" was dedicated to a non-French cultural event, which drew an enthusiastic crowd of some 200,000 spectators.
Climax of the China-France Culture Year that started last October, the parade coincides with celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between two nations. It also comes two days before the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao on his state visit.
Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan and his Parisian counterpart Bertrand Delanoe inaugurated the parade, ceremonially giving life to the two lead dancing lions by painting color to their eyes.
An enormous goldfish, symbolizing good luck for the New Year of the Monkey in the Chinese zodiac, started the three-hour parade at around 14:30 (13:30 GMT).
Costumed participants, including 720 from Beijing, and 54 giant floats then paraded the 1,200-meter avenue from the Arc of Triumph to the Place of Round-Point near the Elysee palace, decorated with red lanterns and 12 symbolic animals associated with a 12-year cycle in the Chinese zodiac.
Various performances followed. Dragon and lion dances, bicycle acrobatic, fan dance, drum music, Beijing opera, and martial arts received waves of applaud from the public who watched from behind barriers on both sides of the avenue.
Some 45 organizations from the Chinese community in Paris joined the exceptional parade, which cost some €480,000 (US$603, 800), with Paris municipal authorities covering more than one third of the cost. The event also marks the opening of the festival of Paris-Beijing Week, which comes in the framework of the Year of Chinese Culture in France.
Starting from 20:00 on Saturday evening, the Eiffel Tower, one of the landmarks of France, will be bathed in red light in honor of the Chinese New Year.
(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2004)