China Mourning Quake Victims
    2010-04-21 10:11:42     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang Jin
 

Soldiers and local residents pay silent tribute to the victims of Yushu earthquake during a mourning ceremony at King Gesar's Square in Gyegu Town of Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, northwest China's Qinghai Province, April 21, 2010. [Photo: Xinhua]

Related: Chinese President Pays Silent Tribute to Quake Victims

Yangkyi Tsomo carefully lit up a ghee lamp and put it on the audience's stand at the racecourse where nearly 20,000 survivors from last week's devastating earthquake are living in makeshift tents.

"The tiny spark will light up my sister's way to heaven," said the teary primary school student. "We have not found her body yet, but we assume she was killed in the quake."

Her home in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu toppled in the 7.1-magnitude quake last Wednesday, but lucky Yangkyi Tsomo survived with her mother and younger brother.

Without a decent lamp at hand, the girl made wicks out of cotton she pulled out of her quilt.

By 10 a.m. Wednesday, hundreds of lamps had lined up the racecourse where in the summer horses race.

"Men in Yushu are born with an ability to ride horses," said Kelsang, an elderly man in town. "We've lost some of our best riders in the quake."

Wednesday, exactly a week after the quake, the whole Chinese nation shared in the grief and mourned the disasters' victims.

From the epicenter in Yushu to Qinghai's provincial capital Xining, from the Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing to the World Expo venue in Shanghai, people representing all ethnic groups stood in silence to pay tribute to the quake dead.

"Let's remember the dead, and transform our grief into strength to rebuild our homes," said Jia Yingzhong, a top official in Yushu, while addressing a public mourning ceremony at the public square in front of Gyegu's town hall.

More than 1,000 people joined the mourning. They wore white paper flowers, a traditional symbol of mourning in China, and stood in silent tribute at 10 a.m..

Many were weeping.

The national flag in the square was lowered to half-mast and the national anthem played.

A banner, with white Chinese characters reading "In memory of our compatriots killed in the Yushu earthquake", hung in the town hall square.

The quake had killed 2,064 people and injured 12,135 others as of Tuesday.

NATIONAL WOES

Palmo Drolma stopped weeping the moment horns and sirens started wailing.

From her sickbed at the People's Hospital in the provincial capital Xining, 800 km from Yushu, she sat motionless and stared into the overcast sky, fighting back the tears that have not dried since her five-year-old daughter was killed.

In another ward, Yang Guojun, a soldier who nearly died of high altitude sickness during the rescue operation, struggled to get on his feet and saluted.

The national flag in front of the Potala Palace in Tibet's capital Lhasa was lowered to half-mast at midnight. Crowds of pilgrims crawled on the ground to make long prayers for the quake victims at dawn.

Wednesday marks the seventh day after the quake, the most important day for observing Buddhist rituals for the dead.

Monks at monasteries nationwide chanted sutra exclusively for the victims, while pilgrims kowtowed and lit up ghee lamps while murmuring the six-syllable mantra, "Om Mani Padme Hum."

"We pray for the dead and bless the living," said 27-year-old monk Urgyen Tenzin, who arrived in Yushu on Friday, just in time to chant sutra for the dead at a mass funeral for the dead Saturday.

Southwest China's Sichuan Province, still recovering from the massive quake of 2008, was overshadowed by grief as people gathered to mourn the dead and make donations.

"My father died in the Wenchuan quake two years ago but his body was never found," said Pan Zhongyong, a volunteer from Mianzhu, one of the worst-hit cities in the 2008 quake.

Pan was the first from Mianzhu to join rescue work in Yushu and returned home Tuesday night. "As a quake survivor I understand how they needed help in Yushu. This was my way to repay society for what other people did for us back in 2008."

The feeling was also strong in Tangshan, a northern Chinese city near Beijing as citizens -- some still haunted by the nightmarish quake that flattened the town and killed 240,000 in 1976 -- gathered at a downtown square for the national mourning.

"We clearly feel the grief of those who have lost family and friends in the Yushu quake," said Ge Changqiu, a survivor of the Tangshan quake. "We also felt affection when complete strangers gave us a helping hand."

"For those who died in Yushu and in Tangshan," he said as he placed fresh flowers at the monument erected in memory of the Tangshan quake victims.

Across China on Wednesday, the color black was everywhere.

Many people wore black clothes to express their sympathy for the victims.

Normally colorful newspapers and webpages turned black and white.

Popular websites suspended online games for 24 hours and put up notices reminding fans to join the national mourning.

Theaters were closed and all artistic performances were suspended at the World Expo venues in Shanghai.

Top Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao and other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, paid a silent tribute in Beijing to the quake victims.

 

HELPING HANDS

Mourning ceremonies were also held at Chinese schools.

Nine-year-old Nyima Drolkar, a primary school student in Lhasa, donated 100 yuan of her pocket money. "It's not much. I hope children in Yushu will be able to buy a drink or a lollipop." Tibet Autonomous Region alone has raised nearly 8.2 million yuan in cash donations and an additional 5.2 million yuan worth of tsamba, tea and Tibetan medicine.

A TV charity show on Tuesday evening raised 2.175 billion yuan (about 319 million U.S. dollars).

The disaster taught China's urban children a lesson about love and caring.

"Would you say 'hi' for me to the children in Yushu?" Dong Jianhao, a 12-year-old student from Dujiangyan City, Sichuan Province, asked Xinhua reporters after a school's mourning ceremony. "Would you tell them that we endured a similar disaster in 2008? Tell them to carry on and that the worst will be over soon."

"My family has moved into a new house and I'd like to invite children from Yushu to stay with me," said 10-year-old Wang Luyao. The girl and her parents lived for about 20 months in tents and prefabricated homes after the Wenchuan quake.

As the nation mourned, rescuers kept working all-out in their search for the 175 people still missing.
 

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