A new world record was set at Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday afternoon when 13,839 people recited China's Taoist classic Daodejing. This marked a new Guinness world record for "most people reading aloud simultaneously in one location." The occasion was also the prelude of the "International Forum on the Daodejing", which will open today.
The rally stood out for the participation and officiating of leaders from six religious faiths, namely Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam as well as a number of celebrities such as famed Hong Kong actors Pak-cheung Chan, Eric Tsang, Kenny Bee and mainland sports stars Li Ning, Zhang Jian and Chang Hao. The huge rally also preceded the forum to be held from April 22 to 27 in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province and Hong Kong.
Andrea Banfi, the returning officer from the Guinness Book of Records on site to witness and confirm procedures, announced the new world record and delivered a certificate to the effort. According to Guinness, this smashed the previous record which was set by 6,210 young participants in Gary, Indiana on June 1, 2004.
Every participant in the recitation had previously signed a declaration to prove their desire to take part in the event. Furthermore, every group of 20 readers was watched by an overseer who verified that they were participating in the recitation. The event was the pinnacle of a day of entertainment with a lion dance, a taijiquan show performed by 1000 people, a martial arts display and a concert featuring Taoist chants and Hong Kong native music preceding it and warming up the atmosphere.
"The wisdom of Tao will be of great help in efforts to build a prosperous, stable and harmonious Hong Kong society," Jiang Jianyong, vice chairman of China Religious Culture Communication Association said, adding that this event showed the religious unity of Hong Kong.
Tong Wai-ki, president of the Hong Kong Taoist Association said that the Daodejing can provide the harmony of Tao for every aspect of modern life. "If you can manage and practice the philosophy hidden in the classic book, you will enjoy harmony for yourself, for your relationships with others and in society, the world and nature.”
Hong Kong's Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping further expressed his joy and heart-felt affection for the event, hailing the flourishing social and economic situation of the country for enabling such a rally to happen. Ho also said the event was part of a series of activities marking the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's returning to China.
Behind this event, one can feel the steeped weight of history. Commemorating the expansion of Laozi’s Preaching Platform at the ancient Louguan Temple in Xi'an, Taoist associations across China decided on a joint international forum to be held in April. In honor of the largest such forum in 50 years, over 300 representatives from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan as well as from 16 foreign countries will be in attendance.
The Daodejing, penned by Laozi himself, studies the links between human and nature, shedding light on the harmony that permeates life itself and its influence can be felt in many areas of traditional Chinese culture. The book, translated into over thirty languages, has now seen over 400 foreign editions since it first came to the Western world’s attention back in the 16th century. Its numerous reprints over the last two millennia highlight the capital importance of the most-widely studied Chinese philosophical classic, considered one of the most important texts in the world human heritage, second perhaps only to the Holy Bible.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui, April 22, 2007)