China mourning quake victims

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. (Xinhua/Zhu Xiang)

GYEGU, Qinghai, April 21 (Xinhua) -- At least 1,000 people gathered in front of Gyegu's town hall Wednesday morning to mourn those killed in last week's devastating earthquake.

The mourners, representing all the different ethnic groups in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, in northwest China's Qinghai Province, wore white paper flowers, a traditional symbol of mourning in China, and stood in silent tribute at 10 a.m..

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

Even the rescuers, still working all-out in the search for the 175 people still missing, stopped for three minutes to mourn.

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

The 7.1-magnitude quake devastated Yushu's largely Tibetan community when it struck at 7:49 a.m. last Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, 2,064 were confirmed dead and 12,135 were injured.

About 80 children from a Yushu orphanage stood out among the mourners at a racecourse in Yushu County where multitudes of quake survivors are living in makeshift tents.

Dressed in donated white jackets, the children were quiet throughout the mourning ceremony which featured a silent tribute, wailing sirens and horns, as well as sutra chanting by more than 60 Tibetan monks who'd come from Sichuan Province.

"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.

Wednesday marks the seventh day after the quake, a time for religious ritual according to Buddhist traditions.

Eight hundred kilometers from Yushu, thousands of residents in Qinghai's provincial capital Xining gathered in a downtown square to mourn the dead. They, too, stood in silent tribute, with wreaths and white flowers, to the sad moan of countless vehicle horns.

The national flag at Tian'anmen Square in the heart of Beijing was lowered to half-mast after the dawn flag raising ceremony as crowds of mourners gathered to express their silent blessings for the survivors.

"It reminds me of the Wenchuan quake in 2008," said Beijing resident Wang Dan. "Again, the Chinese nation is united and overcomes any hardship."

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

The feeling was especially strong in Tangshan, a northern Chinese city near Beijing as citizens -- some still haunted by the nightmarish quake that flattened the town in 1976 and killed 240,000 -- 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 feel the affection when complete strangers give a helping hand."

Ge placed fresh flowers at a monument erected in memory of the Tangshan quake victims.

"For those who died in Yushu and in Tangshan," he said.


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