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Past Anniversaries in Beijing Review
Special> 60th Anniversary of The People's Republic of China> Past Anniversaries in Beijing Review
UPDATED: September-23-2009
National Day Echoes

Echoes of the 10th anniversary celebration are still reverberating throughout the land. What with so many things going on in so many places at once and the pressure of holiday deadlines it was impossible to cover everything. This week we would like to fill in the picture of the greatest celebration in the history of New China. The three-day holiday (October 1-3). plus a Sunday on the 4th, made quite a stretch for the festival. The people took part in the parades and festivities, went to the theatres which were offering their best, visited the exhibitions, spent time with family and friends, and, of course, feasted.

In Peking, despite unwelcome showers, more than a million and a half citizens thronged spacious Tien An Men Square, danced and made merry under the clear October night sky illuminated by fascinating fireworks, till the wee hours of the morning.

On Peking's many stages, memorable performances were given ranging from the traditional Peking opera, Kwangtung, Szechuan, Shaohsing and other local operas to modern stage plays. Themes ranged from tales of the Han dynasty to the big leap forward of today. The world-famous Bolshoi of the Soviet Union added colour to the festival with its rich series of performances and China's No. 1 Peking opera artist Mei Lan-fang gave a memorable portrayal of Mu Kuei-ying, the famous maiden warrior of Sung times.

On the evening of October 3, the Ministry of Culture presented a grand variety show in honour of the guests from many countries who had come to Peking to greet the Chinese people. Thirty-five art groups from various parts of the country and more than 2,500 performers took part in the gala performance.

Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Chairman Liu Shao-chi, Chairman N. S. Khrushchov, and the many honoured guests, came to see the performance. The varied programme included a 540-voice chorus rendering The East Is Red and other songs; a 300-piece orchestra presenting the famous Chinese composition The Spring Festival Overture and Beethoven's Egmont Overture, and a selection from the Chinese dance-drama The Magic Lotus Lantern. The audience enthusiastically greeted the action-packed Peking opera selection from Uproar in the Dragon King's Palace in which the famous Monkey Sun Wu-kung heads an army of hundreds of jumping and somersaulting monkeys storming the Dragon King's palace fathoms below the sea. But the Generals' Chorus - an amateur group - stole the show. 230 generals from the three services of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, most of them veterans of the Long March and the early days of the revolution, sang the songs that were popular among the rank-and-file soldiers of the people's army during the Second Revolutionary Civil War and the War of Resistance to Japan.

Throughout China there were parades on National Day. With charts of production figures and displays of products on floats, the people cheered their achievements in the first decade of the People's Republic and demonstrated their determination to continue the big leap. The floats, charts, and sample products in every city eloquently spelt out the story of the tremendous change that has taken place in China during the past ten years. Shanghai is as good an example as any. Gone are the days when it was a paradise for the imperialist adventurers and one of the notorious badspots of the East. In ten years it has become a clean city and one of the major industrial bases of New China. 600,000 people marched past Shanghai's People's Square in its National Day parade. The models of their new achievements included a 25,000-kilowatt steam turbine generator, a 5,000-ton steamer, precision grinding machines which can work to a tolerance of 1/63 of a hair, high-quality nylons and plastics and other products of light industry that have given the city international fame.

In the north China port city Tientsin, a huge float in the parade depicted a giant carp leaping over the dragon gate - a traditional symbol for great prosperity - with a worker riding the carp and holding a red flag inscribed with golden characters proclaiming: "Industrial Output Increased 13-fold in Ten Years." This is Tientsin's story in a nutshell. In Wuhan, the triple-city on the Yang-tse, the paraders happily reported that on the eve of National Day Wuhan's new iron and steel works had produced the first heat of steel from its first open-hearth furnace and that its No. 1 and No. 2 blast furnaces broke records in the daily output of iron. The triple-city is well on its way to becoming a new giant steel base.

The same spirit prevailed throughout the countryside. In towns and villages, the peasants, with unhidden pride, displayed samples of their harvest and the advantages brought them by the first year of the people's communes. The Chinese peasants increased the value of agricultural output by 150 per cent in the past ten years. The nightmarish decades of importing rice, wheat and cotton before liberation had finally been brought to an end. Today China's total grain output stands first in the world and its cotton output ranks second. In Heilungkiang, China's northernmost province, for instance, the people hailed the transformation of the "Great Northern Wastelands" into a granary of the north. The peasants of Yunnan Province in the south paraded in the streets of Kunming, the city of eternal spring, celebrating the upping of the province's total food grain output by 150 per cent in ten years.

Among the gayest celebrants all over the country were the people of China's many national minorities. In Kwangsi, Sinkiang, Inner Mongolia, Ninghsia, Chinghai and other regions where the national minorities live, the minority peoples joined the festivities in large numbers. They sang and danced in their colourful national costumes to celebrate the good life that the People's Republic had brought them. In Lhasa 30.000 people turned out on the square before the Potala to greet the tenth birthday of the People's Republic. Crowds happily marched past the reviewing stand, cheering and waving flags.

(Beijing Review NO. 41, 1959)

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NO. 40, 1959
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