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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 18:26 GMT
China's Year of the Dragon
A mass wedding for 2,000 couples in Beijing's sports stadium
A mass wedding for 2,000 couples in Beijing's sports stadium
By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

As the new century dawned, bells rang out in temples across China, while the country's president, Jiang Zemin, lit a sacred flame at a specially designed century altar.

The ceremony was an echo of China's imperial past but Mr Jiang said the nation's history of subjugation was now behind it and he called for an end to power politics.

Into 2000
On the Great Wall thousands ignored the freezing temperatures to join a one-minute midnight vigil for peace.

Beacons blazed along its entire length from the deserts of the north-west to the coast east of Beijing, where lasers and illuminated dragon boats welcomed the new year.

In China's far north-east, people went swimming at midnight in frozen rivers, while in the tropical south processions of elephants marked the new millennium.

Hope and optimism

China is celebrating not only the year 2000 but also the coming Year of the Dragon, traditionally seen as a time of optimism and opportunity.

A dragon dancer strikes a pose
Two-thousand couples expressed their confidence by taking part in a mass wedding in a Beijing sports stadium, while on traditional sacred mountains and in famous coastal resorts people gathered to watch the dawn.

Their wishes for good fortune will no doubt be echoed by the executives of several Chinese airlines who had pledged to pilot planes across midnight to dispel fears about the millennium bug.

Yet officials remain on the alert for possible difficulties.

Some banks are reported to have issued staff with abacuses in case of computer failure - a traditional solution to a very 21st century problem.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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