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Start the New Year Right with Beautiful Calligraphy

More than ten thousand people including President Ma Ying-jeou gathered yesterday in the plaza in front of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei to practice their calligraphy simultaneously in a move to raise the public's awareness of the beauty of traditional Chinese characters on the first day of 2010.

The wielding of writing brushes on New Year's Day is one of the major events being held during the annual Chinese Character Festival (漢字文化節), an event organized by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government.

Running for its sixth year now, the two month-long event began December 15, 2009, and runs until January 10 this year.

"I am really glad to see so many people gathered here today to practice the art of calligraphy,” said Ma yesterday.
Ma noted that the festival was first launched at the end of 2004 during his tenure as mayor of Taipei City. The event was created in order to raise the public's awareness of traditional Chinese characters as a valuable asset.

He added that he was fearful that the traditional writing system, which he said was a "beautiful language" that has documented China's history for more than 3,000 years, was giving way to the simplified one.

Ma reiterated his appeal to China that the Chinese mainland, while using the simplified Chinese characters, should still let people know how to read the complex characters.

He also noted that the national government has prepared an application to have the traditional form of writing included on the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a step toward preserving the world's oldest and most beautiful language.

During the joint calligraphy writing event, Ma wrote the Chinese characters for pan “盼” and hsing “興”--meaning "expectation" and "prosperous" respectively - with ink and brush on two large square pieces of red paper to wish for the best for the nation in 2010.

This year's festival is based at both Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the Taipei Confucius Temple to promote traditional Chinese characters along with Chinese language in general with the holding of various activities and seminars.

The festival is also aimed at developing links with members of the cultural and creative industries to exhibit the creative works of local talents that combine the elements of Chinese calligraphy and fashion and cloth design.

A fashion show will kick off today at the Taipei Confucius Temple.

Aside from the fashion design show, a cultural creative market and even a xiang-sheng or traditional Chinese comedic crosstalk, this time based on wordplays related to Chinese characters, will also be held during the festival.