For the first time in more than 50 years, 73 senior citizens from southeastern China's Fujian Province Tuesday visited their hometown of Jinmen in Taiwan Province.
This Lantern Festival, a traditional celebration of family in China focusing on family reunions, the 73 visitors, who are all older than 65, are spending quality time with their relatives on the island.
As the first boat from the mainland to make a direct crossing to Taiwan in almost half a century, the "Gulangyu'' ferry left Xiamen in Fujian at 10 am Tuesday.
A total of 91 people were on board, including the elderly visitors, some medical workers, journalists and ferry personnel.
The boat safely reached Jinmen, which is only a few kilometers off the mainland.
The visitors will stay there for four days and three nights, holding a memorial ceremony for their ancestors and visiting relatives, according to Xu Wenshen, head of the Fujian-Jinmen Friendship Federation.
Xu noted that the old people are mainly from Fujian's Xiamen, Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Zhangzhou.
Official statistics indicate that more than 4,000 people who were born in Jinmen now live in Fujian. Most of them are refugees who escaped from Jinmen when it was invaded by the Japanese army on October 1937.
They have been prevented from going home since the mainland and Taiwan were separated in 1949 after China's War of Liberation (1946-49).
Fujian's local officials said that the purpose of this trip to Jinmen is just to let people visit their home again. The group is not scheduled to meet any Taiwanese officials.
However, the trip means a lot to these people, who have been separated by the Taiwan Straits for more than 50 years.
Xu Tianchui, aged 81, who was forced to join the Kuomintang army and was sent to the mainland in 1947 when his wife had just given birth to a son in Jinmen, will see his 54-year-old son for the first time Wednesday.
Jinmen plans to invite 500 people from Fujian, all of whom are older than 60, in four separate batches.
Taiwan sent the first two boats to the mainland in nearly 52 years on an official visit on January 2.
(China Daily 02/07/2001)