Capital citizens dedicate continuous passion to National Day celebrations

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For 60-year-old Tian Haizhu there was little time to celebrate his birthday in July as he had a bigger birthday party to prepare for.

Born in the same year as the People's Republic of China was founded, Tian has more than once dedicated his passion to the National Day celebrations in Tian'anmen Square over the past decades.

On Oct.1, 1959, Tian was among thousands of Young Pioneers surging toward the Golden Water Bridge at the front of the square to greet the country's then top leader Mao Zedong. At the age of 14 and 15, he was a student parader passing by the Tian'anmen rostrum.

This year, Tian was to perform kongzhu together with his wife in the evening gala celebrating New China's 60th birthday in Tian'anmen Square on National Day, which is next Thursday.

Kongzhu literarily means empty bamboo, and is one of the major Chinese traditional toys along with shuttlecocks and kites. It has been a popular activity among people of various ages and was performed at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

"I am getting old and it's a rare chance for me. We are excited and nervous," Tian said. The couple spent nearly half of their time practicing diabolo for the show over the past few months.

Tian and his wife planned to wear white robes embroidered with phoenixes and dragons for the show on Oct. 1, which are symbols of harmony and prosperity in Chinese cultural tradition.

"I could really feel people's pride for our motherland during the last two rehearsals this month. We shouted and we clapped, and we are proud to live in such a strong country," he said.

Recalling his past experience in the National Day celebration when he stood under the Tian'anmen rostrum and looked up to Chairman Mao in 1959, Tian said he could not understand much and just did as he was told.

"You don't really expect a ten-year-old child to understand patriotism in a deep sense," he said.

"But he will understand when he grows up," Tian said.

Apart from tens of thousands of performers for the evening gala, 100,000 citizens would parade through Tian'anmen Square on Oct. 1 to showcase the country's rapid social, economic and cultural development over the past six decades.

And the background performances in coordination with a military parade and mass pageant in the morning would involve 80,000 primary and middle school students.

It has been common for Beijing citizens ranging from children to retirees to perform or do services for national celebrations and grand events, and some described this as "a good chance but also a heavy duty".

Feng Shu, a 29-year-old professional lion dancer in the capital, said his team of 20 had shelved all other plans to focus on the performances in the evening gala on Oct. 1.

Feng's team would dance beneath eight northern-style lions, which had shaggy yellow hair, in the evening gala. They performed lion dancing for the Beijing Olympic torch relays last year, among other large-scale celebrations.

"Lucky as we are, we feel it's also obligatory for us to perform for our country and all the people," Feng said.

However, for those born on Oct. 1, the doubled pleasure of celebrating birthdays of both New China and their own would certainly overwhelm the responsibility.

Yang Yumei, a 56-year-old dancer in the Shijingshan District performance group, was expecting her 'biggest' birthday party ever in Tian'anmen Square with state leaders, famous artists and tens of thousands of other performers.

Together with 3,700 more dancers in the same group, Yang would perform several types of dancing with silk fans, handkerchiefs or wreaths, for which they were practicing all day long in nearby parks.

"I will dance for New China and for myself. It's a carnival night, and to take part in the show is my best gift," she said.

Still with about a week to go to the holiday, the government has concluded four rounds of rehearsals for all the festivities at weekends from Aug. 30 to Sept. 19.

A large number of Beijing citizens had to give up weekend shopping or get-together plans and stay at home because of traffic control during the rehearsals.

Few, however, complained, and many were flushed with pride and joy as flowers were displayed along the main roads and national flags hung in front of many shops.

As an old Beijinger, Tian was quite familiar with such a festive atmosphere and was determined to give his best show for the evening gala.

"It's an honor for us all to take part in National Day celebrations in Tian'anmen. But I am already 60, and it's possibly my last time," Tian said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 23, 2009)

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