By Elaine Dunn
In 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong declared on Oct. 1 the founding of the People’s Republic of China
(PRC) and Oct. 1 would be its National Day.
That first inaugural proclamation was followed by a military parade, numbering 16,400 troops and
thousands of cheering civilians marching along.
The first National Day (1949) was captured by artist Dong Xiwen in an oil painting, unveiled in 1953. The painting,
however, had to be “edited” in 1954 where the bearded gentleman to Mao’s left was purged from the Party and the
painting after he called for Mao to retire. His spot was replaced by a potted chrysanthemum!
Since 1949, National Day in China has been marked by much bigger military parades (in Beijing and
Shanghai), state banquets, large political gatherings and speeches. In 1954, Beijing even sent a
representative to Moscow to study how the Soviets conducted such events. The result of that trip was the
addition of an “advancing forward in unison” element, where parade participants rush toward the review
platform to cheer and greet the leaders present. A “living image” element was added in 1957. This
consisted of thousands of people holding bouquets or colored placards facing Tiananmen Gate to form a
huge visual pattern.
Around the holiday, portraits of revered leaders are prominently displayed in public spaces still.
With the growing economy, the Chinese government established a weeklong holiday in the year
2000 for celebrating National Day, known as “Golden Week.” From Oct. 1-7, it seems like the entire
population is on the move! Government statistics showed that on that first Golden Week, 59.82 million
Chinese traveled during the holiday. Hotels in major tourist destinations enjoyed close to 70 percent
bookings. According to WeChat, the bulk of travel by Chinese during the 2017 National Day Golden
Week, which coincided with Mid-autumn Festival that year, originated from four first-tier cities: Beijing,
Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Most headed to countries within Southeast Asia, with Hong Kong
being the most popular destination. The most remote destination for these travelers was Greenland.
Typical crowd on the Shanghai Bund on National Day
To mark the 70th anniversary of the PRC, President Xi Jinping will deliver a speech to be followed
by a military parade and mass pageantry. In the evening, there will be fireworks and art performances.
A first for this year is the recognition of prominent figures who have “made outstanding
contributions to and the development of” the PRC. Foreigners who have made significant contributions
to China’s modernization also will receive Medals of Friendship.
So that’s Oct. 1. What about Oct. 10, also known as Double Ten Day. What is its significance?
What does it celebrate?
In the early1900s, the Han Chinese has had enough of rampant corruption within the ineffective
Manchu government. They also resented foreign encroachment and losing control of their ports to the
Europeans. Furthermore, they harbored deep-seated discontent of the Europeans restoring the Manchus
to power after the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864).
On Oct. 10, 1911, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, revolutionaries organized the Wuchang Uprising,
which brought about the eventual collapse of the Qing Dynasty in February 1912. The Wuchang
Uprising also resulted in the declaration of independence from the central government by Wuchang and
In the ensuing Chinese civil war (1945-1949), the government of the Republic of China (the
Kuomintang founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1912, and later led by Chiang Kai Shek) was defeated by
Mao Zedong’s Communist Party and fled to Taiwan in 1949. Therefore, Double Ten Day is mainly
celebrated only in Taiwan and in large Chinatowns by overseas Chinese. On the mainland, if Oct. 10 is
recognized at all, it is recognized as the anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising.
The first Double Ten National Day celebration in Taiwan took place in 1949. Tragedy struck the
celebration of 1964. One of the three air force fighters doing a flyover struck a broadcasting tower. Its
fuel tank separated and fell to the ground, killing three spectators, one of whom was a baby. The other
two fighters collided mid-air while looking for the crashed one, killing both pilots. The parade was
suspended until 1971, and the flyover resumed in 1975.
Nowadays, Double Ten Day means a day off for the Taiwanese. Celebrations in Taipei, capital of
Taiwan, begin with raising of the flag in front of the Presidential Building followed by singing of the
National Anthem. The military parade has given way to a parade by civic organizations, athletes and
disaster response personnel, which is followed by a speech by the president. Nowadays, the day’s
celebration focus on the nation’s uniformed service personnel, not its military. The day concludes with
Many modern Taiwanese view Oct. 10 not as “Taiwan’s birthday,” but as the birth of a new regime
in China in 1911, that led to the end of the imperial Qing dynasty. They also look forward to the day
when they can celebrate Taiwan as an official independent country, with membership to the United
Students participate in Double Ten National Day Parade in Taiwan.