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Capital Wrapped in Festive Atmosphere

With New Year's Day just around the corner, Beijing is caught up in the holiday hype: theatres are decked out in festive colours, concert halls resonate with busy rehearsals, and restaurants are sizzling with bountiful delicious dishes to fit the season.

More than 100 shows, ranging from symphonies, choirs, ballets and Latin dance to Peking Opera, will crowd the stages of Beijing, said Liu Lu, an official of the Beijing Cultural Bureau Thursday.

Although there have been over 1,000 performances in Beijing this year, there is no ebb in audience's enthusiasm.

"For those preferring indoor activities in this cold season, what could be better than enjoying an exciting performance? Especially if the performance affords aesthetic enjoyment as well as a strong draught of festiveness," Liu said.

The most popular performance this year might be the annual New Year Symphony Concert of Beijing. After five successful years, the show has become a regular musical fixture for Beijing holidayers. Almost all tickets for the show have been sold.

The concert for this year will be presented by a grand team of 150 musicians from both China and Germany.

But the most unusual performance will come next Monday, when at a grand ceremony the bell and drums at the ancient Bell Tower and Drum Tower in central Beijing will sound again. And from that day on, they will sound every morning and evening, just as they used to about a hundred years ago.

But they will no longer serve their old function of marking the time of day. Instead, they will serve as a reminder of the continuity of tradition in this ancient capital of China. The bell and drums can also serve people who wish to pray for someone dear to them, said an anonymous official with the Dongcheng District Cultural Relics Management Committee.

While the performances are a hot item and the tickets are expensive, stores in Beijing embrace the golden season with various promotions and different discounts.

"Shopping will be a great pleasure at this time, for people can get lots of things at lower prices," said Yang Xinjing, an official with the local commercial authority.

And many major restaurants such as Quanjude and Nengrenju, which are famous for roast duck and lamb hot pot respectively, report satisfactory booking rates and expect full tables. Things are also good for the New Year banquets of star-class hotels.

Public transportation companies will extend service to midnight for the three days, and there are bus services from downtown to scenic sites outside the city.

(China Daily December 28, 2001)

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