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Chinese spend lunar New Year Eve: A happy time (02/12/2002)
2003/10/21

It is the unusual time for the world's largest population who eye the Year of Horse in the Chinese lunar calendar as a year for greater advancement.
The lunar New Year Eve arrives Monday and it will usher in the traditional Spring Festival, which is featured with family reunions throughout the country, as well as fireworks, songs and smiles.

However, poor people are shedding cheerful tears when they receive charitable donations from the government and the public on this special night.

"The horse is a legendary animal in Chinese tradition," said sociologist Wang Yongyu, "it represents great courage, fast speed, and the unbelievable confidence in overcoming difficulties."

As they did in the past years, most Chinese fixed their eyes on the TV screen for an annual grand artistic show sponsored by the China Central Television (CCTV) Monday night.

"Though they made little renovation to the 19-year-old and four-hour-long show, most families have got used to it and regarded it as a festival custom," said Xiao Wang, a viewer. The CCTV estimated that over 800 million people have "eaten the big meal" filled with jokes, acrobatics, Beijing Opera performances, dances and songs.

On the stage, artists enthusiastically recalled China's remarkable achievements in 2001, including hosting the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings, entering the World Trade Organization (WTO), and winning the bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

However, more people especially the young and the wealthy have chosen to spend the lunar New Year Eve outside their houses, and even outside their hometown or outside the country. Reports say that at least 400,000 people from inland China have found their way into Hong Kong for the Spring Festival holidays, with a lot of them flying to Europe and Australia.

In the southern province of Guangdong, more people had banquets in Western style restaurants rather than sat at home table eating traditional Jiaozi or dumplings.

The Spring Festival is the most important holiday for the 1.3 billion Chinese. At the Great Hall of the People Monday morning, President Jiang Zemin extended greetings to Chinese people of various ethnic groups, the compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and all overseas Chinese.

The cheerful atmosphere is also prevailing poor families, as the government this year pays special attention to those in poverty. In Beijing alone, 30,000 laid-off workers have all received food and pensions prior to the Spring Festival.

In the northeastern city of Changchun, artists held a charitable artistic performance Monday for the poor. Gu Xiaoqing, 11, a leukemia patient, sang a song to express her thanks to the kind people who have donated her 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) during the past four years.

"The Spring Festival to me means a new beginning," said the girl, tears rolling down on her face.

Pan Jialong's family moved to Chongming in 2000, and was allocated two hectares of land, where he planted rice, vegetables and oranges. "People are nice and friendly here," said Pan, "There are free lectures on how to increase our crop yield, and the villagers even offer me a lift in their trucks to sell fruit and vegetables downtown."

The younger generation of the new residents have found life particularly enjoyable in their second hometown, as the well-equipped schools, amiable teachers and friendly classmates all make them feel at home.

Yu Liqing, a second year student at a junior high school in Chongming, did not learn any English at the primary school in her hometown Yuyang. She was at a loss when she found most of her native Shanghai classmates had started to learn English at an much earlier age.

But her sympathetic teacher soon helped her out with an extra half hour of tuition each day. By the end of last semester, the diligent Yu had become one of the best students in her class.

"Young people adjust easily to new environments," the teenage girl said, "Life here is even better than in our hometown, and I'm confident I will make more progress."

Some 107 of the required 114 resettlement townships have been rebuilt in safe regions since the Three Gorges project was launched in 1993.

The Chinese Government has promised the general standard of living for those resettled will be higher than it previously was.

In Guangzhou alone, 100,000 people left the city Monday to go back home by train. About 98 percent of the trains have reached their destinations on time nationwide, according to the Ministry of Railways.

In Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the market is brisk. Luobo, a Tibetan, said that he had just bought a TV set so that he could view Spring Festival repertoires.

In some villages, the WTO has become a novel and hot topic at family gatherings. Yang Zuli, a farmer in cental China's Hubei Province, told Xinhua that he worried about the prospect of the wheat market, however, his village fellows have made up their minds to plant more vegetables, fruits and strawberry to maintain a stable income.

"There might be hardships and tears in the Year of Horse, and the world will be more like a maze, but I still feel optimistic," he said.

 
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