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Taiwan Writer Visits Imperial Palace, Alma Mater on "Chinese Culture Trip"

Famous Taiwan writer and cultural figure Li Ao came to the Palace Museum and his alma mater in Beijing Tuesday, more than 50 years after his last visit.

Li spent three hours in the Palace Museum. "I remember when I last visited here as a boy, there was still long grass growing out from the spaces between bricks in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony," said an emotional 70-year-old Li, who had spent many childhood years in Beijing.

"He is an expert on cultural relics with profound knowledge," said Jin Yunchang with the museum guiding for Li.

In the Xinxian Hutong primary school, Li's alma mater, he found the classroom he studied nearly half century ago and wrote an ancient maxims on the blackboard to encourage the children to study hard.

The pupils handed drawings, paper-cut they made to Li as presents, and Li gave one of his book to the school.

And then, Li called on his teacher, Lu Rongshen. "How do you do, Mr. Lu? I'm Li Ao." Suffering parkinsonism, Lu cannot speak, without face expressions but watching his once student.

Getting a photograph of young Mr. Lu from Lu's children, Li said she was such a young and beautiful teacher at that time.

Li arrived in Beijing Monday evening for a 10-day "Chinese culture trip", his first trip back to the Chinese mainland after he left for Taiwan at age 14.

He is expected to make speeches in three prestigious Chinese universities in Beijing and Shanghai, meet primary school classmates, teachers and visit some landmark places.

As he made the tour, accompanied by experts of the museum, a large group of reporters and enthusiastic Chinese mainland fans followed close behind.

Many readers even brought books written by Li and asked for his autograph, a request that Li gladly met.

Days before Li Ao's arrival, the Chinese mainland media started publishing articles about the trip and Li himself, a legendary figure in the eyes of many Chinese readers. Books written by him are available in all major bookstores in Beijing.

Brought up on the mainland until 14, Li is known for his profound knowledge of traditional Chinese culture. He is also famous in many other ways, including as a prolific writer of criticism, an ardent supporter of China's reunification, an earnest scholar and an "arrogant man".

"But if you really know him, he is not actually an arrogant man. He is a respectable man with profound knowledge and unique insights," said university teacher Zhou Sheng, who has read Li a lot.

Li was once received a Nobel prize nomination for his historical novel about a temple in Beijing.

His trip is being closely watched by media organizations in China and overseas.

That's not only because of his fame and personality, but also because he is seen as enhancing another channel of exchanges between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, which has experienced estrangement in relations since the Chinese civil war.

The war ended with people originally living on the mainland and China's former ruling party Kuomintang moving to Taiwan, a Chinese island province.

This year witnessed friendly exchanges between the Communist Party of China and three political parties in Taiwan, namely the Kuomintang, the People First Party and the New Party.

Analysts say enhanced exchanges between people of the two sides will help increase mutual understanding, beef up bonds between Chinese people across the Taiwan Straits and contribute to an eventual peaceful reunification of China.

(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2005)

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