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Shi Yi - National Day October Golden Week

Shi Yi - Chinese National Day on Tiananmen Square
Chinese National Day – good fun just don’t try to move

Chinese National Day, know colloquially as ‘Shíyī’ – ‘Ten-one’ since it falls on the first of October, celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st 1949.

On that day Mao Zedong stood atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) waving a red flag and announced the new Republic to a million fanatical followers, broadcasting a message of victory after decades of war. The PRC is 58 years old this year (2007).

Shi Yi is officially marked with parades, political rallies and a flag-raising ceremony on Tiananmen Square which attracts about a quarter of a million people. Individuals, families and employers might mark the day with displays of lights, posters and fireworks. Red flags sell in massive numbers.

For the past several years a huge portrait of Sun Yatsen (see 20th Century History) as well as slogan-boardings, a huge fountain and mockups of famous sights have occupied Tiananmen Square on Chinese National Day, attracting thousands of visitors.

This year’s Shi Yi celebrations also included an Olympic display, with what appeared to be a model of the Acropolis in Greece.

Chinese National Day also begins one of China’s two ‘Golden Weeks’ – week long national holidays where virtually all workers get time off to travel or visit family. Unlike in other countries where holidays are seen as penalising business, Shi Yi spurs huge internal spending and boost the economy.

Golden Weeks are thus one of the happiest times of year for a factory worker, but awful for the tourist. About 60 million people flock onto the transport system, prices for everything rocket, and hotel rooms are tough to book even months in advance.

Beijing Made Easy has received plenty of sob stories from travellers who found themselves stuck in boring backwater cities unable to buy train tickets out for an entire week.

This year I did the sensible thing and stayed away from the tourist sites for most of the week, apart from a trip to Tiananmen Square on the evening of October 1st.

The atmosphere was fun, the fountain was beautiful and the displays were all pretty interesting, but getting away from the square afterwards was a total nightmare with underpasses crowded with people and some subway stations only allowing passengers out, not in.

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