Sun, Jan 02, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Centenary flag-raising draws 70,000

‘ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME’:Celebrants marked 100 years of the Republic of China at the Presidential Office plaza and thousands later attended the annual calligraphy festival

By Ko Shu-ling  /  Staff Reporter, with CNA

Attendants at a calligraphy activity organized at Liberty Square in Taipei City as part of the Seventh Chinese Character Festival yesterday hold up cards with characters they made.

PHOTO: CNA

Undaunted by a cold front that brought one of the coldest New Year’s Days in years to Taiwan, tens of thousands of people swarmed the Presidential Office plaza yesterday morning to attend the annual national flag-raising ceremony, as celebrations marking the Republic of China’s (ROC) centenary got under way.

Wu Sui-yun, 43, who attended the flag-raising ceremony for the first time, said she got up before daybreak because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the ROC, and she wanted to mark the historic moment.

Mohandi, a 50-year-old man from Egypt who has lived in Taiwan for 25 years, said he did not sleep at all last night in order to attend the ceremony.

“I love Taiwan. This is a very special event, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

At the ceremony, a new arrangement of the national anthem made its debut, and several video clips showcasing the history and the people of the country, from a picture of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) establishing the ROC on Jan. 1, 1912, to the winning of an international award by world champion Master Chef Wu Pao-chun (吳寶春).

One of the highlights of yesterday’s flag-raising ceremony occurred when 100 couples appeared on stage to get married in a mass wedding, which was held for the first time during the annual event.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who participated in the ceremony with first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青), told the crowd he has attended the flag raising many times before, but it felt completely different this year.

“It’s a milestone for the Republic of China. Dr Sun Yat-sen ended 5,000 years of monarchy and founded the ROC on Jan. 1, 1912. One hundred years later, we have turned into the most democratic, diverse, educated and prosperous [Chinese] society in history,” Ma said.

According to the Republic of China (Taiwan) Centenary Foundation, about 70,000 people attended the flag-raising ceremony this year.

Later yesterday, thousands of people attended the annual calligraphy festival in Taipei, where Ma wrote a Chinese character to wish good fortune for the country.

Writing the character tai (泰, or prosperity) on a piece of red paper with ink and a brush, Ma said he hoped the new year would mark the end of extreme adversity and the beginning of prosperity.

The annual event, held on the square of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, was initiated by Ma in 2005 when he was Taipei mayor.

While those who live in the ROC will continue to read and write traditional Chinese, Ma said, he hoped Chinese living in China would learn to read traditional Chinese characters while writing simplified script so they would be able to better connect with the Chinese culture.

“It is purely cultural; there is nothing political about it,” he said.

Ma was among the 12 guests invited by the organizer to write down auspicious words and usher in the Year of the Rabbit. Among them, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) wrote an (安, or stability), -Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) wrote ho (和, or peace) and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) wrote hau (好, or good).

Chen Yeh Tsai-mei (陳葉再妹), who does not read or write Chinese, drew the number 100 to celebrate the centennial of the ROC, while wearing a rabbit-shaped hat. The 100-year-old great grandmother speaks only Hakka and Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese). It was the second time she has attended the event.

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