China, 65 and going strong

China, 65 and going strong

CHINA - An air of festivity has pervaded the capital since the end of September as China anticipated its 65th national day.

On the streets, red lanterns and Chinese knots adorned the lamp posts.

People talked excitedly about their vacation plans while travellers were reminded of the massive traffic jams and overcrowded scenic spots around the country during the seven-day break.

I decided to brave the crowd to watch the flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square on Wednesday.

The daily ritual is dear to the heart of the Chinese, and especially on the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Sixty-five years ago, late Chinese leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of modern China at the square, where the Chinese national flag - five stars on a red field - was raised.

The exact timing of the flag-raising ceremony at sunrise (as well as the flag-lowering ceremony at dusk) is available on the internet for locals and tourists to plan their visits to the square.

On the first day of each month, the ceremony gets an extra boost from the military band, in addition to the military guards marching in perfect synchronisation and precision towards the flag post for the flag-raising.

The ceremony on Oct 1 was sche­duled to be held at 6.10am.

I woke up at 2am to wave down a taxi together with a friend.

The night was deserted and chilly; we crammed our hands in our jacket pockets.

The cab driver was amused at our enthusiasm. "It's too early," he said, but as it turned out, scores of people were already heading towards the Tiananmen Square as our cab drove along Chang'an Avenue.

Stringent security checks were put in place.

Besides producing identity cards, the people had to go through metal detectors and had their bags scanned before they were allowed near Tiananmen Square.

The floral display for the celebration, a giant flower basket, was illuminated.

Above the square, the autumn night was starless.

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