A Nation Celebrates Its New Beginning

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In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would be on hand to witness the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China. I had arrived in Beijing from Shanxi province in April 1949, two months after the city had been liberated, to attend the first national youth conference. After the meeting I stayed on to work with the Chinese Writers' Association. When we learned that National Day celebrations would take place at Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1, we had a week to prepare. We got up every morning to write slogans and make paper flowers, lanterns and five-star red flags, copied from samples our superiors handed out. The atmosphere was genuinely enthusiastic. A day before the event, I received an invitation from the All China Youth Federation to attend the celebrations. It was for one person only and not transferable. I was to attend the celebrations on the reviewing stand at Tiananmen Square! Imagine, here I was, a 27-year-old bumpkin from a poor rural background just transferred to Beijing, and I had been invited to attend this historic celebration! Many of my colleagues envied me. I was so excited I couldn't sleep the entire night. After lunch on the big day, Oct. 1, I went with two comrades by car to Tiananmen Square. The main streets had been cordoned off, and with our special pass we traveled along a designated route that passed through Jinyu Lane and Donghuamen Street. The city was awash with red flags, which hung from every door of every shop and building. We finally entered the rear gate of the Forbidden City, parked the car and took our places on the viewing stands to the west of the rostrum. Giant red lanterns hung on both sides of the rostrum, with the golden national emblem hanging in the center. We looked up to see the VIPs in attendance. Suddenly people started clapping. It turned out that Mao Zedong was arriving. His appearance created quite a stir on the whole square as cheers and applause broke out. Lin Boqu, Secretary-General of the central government, opened the ceremony. Then the loud and clear voice of Chairman Mao came over the loudspeaker: The central government of the People's Republic of China is established! The flag was raised as the national anthem played and soldiers set off an earth-shaking gun salute. I was moved almost to tears when I heard Mao's speech. I hadn't expected the communist victory to come so soon or that I would be on hand to witness the moment. We had just defeated the Japanese and seized power from the Kuomintang. The only thing we could think of then was rebuilding the cities and rural areas that had been badly damaged in the war. We had been fighting for more than 10 years. I had joined the army when I was 16 to fight the Japanese. A year later I joined the Communist Party. At that time we just hoped to defeat the Japanese as quickly as possible, to have enough bullets to accomplish the task and to have enough to eat each day. We thought less about our personal interests, as we realized we could achieve nothing if we could not defeat the invaders. And so, during the ceremony, I was deeply moved when I saw captured weapons pass by in the military parade. It was easy for me to remember the bitter old days of not having enough food to eat, of fighting the Japanese and of the endless marching and combat. The ceremony lasted for more than three hours. As I went home, the streets were packed with people beating drums and gongs, letting off firecrackers and lighting lanterns. The entire city of Beijing had come alive on that day. Ma Feng is a well-known writer from northern Shanxi province and a member of the Chinese Writers' Association