Fri, Jan 02, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Thousands gather to set record

WORLD RECORD ATTEMPT President Ma Ying-jeou was one of 16 guests who wrote auspicious words to usher in the New Year and attempt to set a new calligraphy record

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

More than 12,000 people gathered in Taipei yesterday to attempt to set a Guinness World Record by writing calligraphy on the first day of the new year.

Braving low temperatures and sharp wind, 12,902 people gathered at the Central Culture Park on Bade Road to attend the city’s fifth Chinese Character Festival.

The festival was initiated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2005 when he was the city’s mayor and was organized to promote Chinese culture and traditional Chinese characters. In ancient times, it was a tradition that a writing ceremony would take place on the first day of the new year to offer freshly written characters to the gods as prayers for a prosperous year ahead.

Addressing the event yesterday, Ma said Chinese characters were among the oldest writing systems in the world and a valuable asset.

The government has launched a campaign to obtain world heritage status for traditional Chinese characters in a bid to preserve them for the future, Ma said.

Traditional Chinese characters are used in Taiwan and 50 million people are estimated to use them worldwide, Ma said, compared with the 1.3 billion people in China using the simplified form.

However, publications printed in traditional Chinese seemed to be more popular than those printed in simplified Chinese, Ma said.

Ma said it was important to read traditional Chinese because it was a necessary tool to understanding classic Chinese literary works.

It would narrow the gap between both sides of the Taiwan Strait if the Chinese could also read traditional Chinese characters, Ma said.

As one of the 16 guests invited to write auspicious words and usher in the Year of Ox, Ma wrote the character han (漢), or “Chinese.”

It was one of the characters assigned to the guests making up the 16-word couplet, which read: “Genesis of stroke sheds grace on the people, Chinese culture spreads out over four seas.”

They then wrote one more Chinese character on a different piece of paper to sum up their New Year’s wish. Ma and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) wrote an (安), “safety,” Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) wrote he (和), “harmony,” and Taipei City Council Speaker Wu Bi-chu (吳碧珠) wrote chun (春), or “spring.”

On behalf of the participants, four-year-old Cheng Pei-chieh (鄭佩婕) and 93-year-old Chao Chia-li (趙家理) accepted “wisdom brushes” from Ma and a “hero certificate” as a token of gratitude for their attendance. Cheng said she wanted to be a calligrapher when she grows up.

Chen Yeh Tsai-mei (陳葉再妹), who does not read or write, drew circles on a long strip of red paper. She said it was the first time she had written with ink and a brush.

Holding her brush in shaky hands, the 97-year-old said the circles symbolized perfection and she wished everything in the New Year to be perfect and that everybody would make a lot of money.

Chen’s four-year-old great-grandson, Hu Hsiu-yi (胡修禕) seemed to have a good time drawing on the red paper. With his hands covered with black ink and the brush’s end split, Hu was biting the sleeve of his sweater when he said he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. His New Year’s wish was to be happy.

His mother said it was the first time her son had written with ink and brush and that they had returned home from San Jose, California, for the New Year holidays.

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