Thousands of people gathered at the Tian'anmen Square in central Beijing early Sunday morning to watch a national flag hoisted to full height and then lowered to half-mast, mourning victims of a massive mudslide in northwest China's Zhouqu County one week ago.
A flag at half-mast is also seen at Xinhuamen, the main entrance of Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Communist Party of China and the central government, as part of the one-day national mourning.
The State Council announced Saturday that Chinese flags across the country and at overseas embassies and consulates would be lowered to half-mast Sunday to mourn the victims of the devastating mudslide.
Public entertainment will be suspended Sunday in a show of mourning, said the announcement by the State Council, China's cabinet.
The mudslide hit Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southern Gansu Province, on August 8, leaving 1,239 people dead and 505 missing.
Soon after Sunday midnight, front pages of Chinese websites turned to black and white, in a show of mourning.
Public recreational activities, such as movies, karaoke, and on-line entertainment including games and music are set to be suspended Sunday, according to an urgent circular issued by the Ministry of Culture.
Mourning ceremonies will also be held Sunday in Zhouqu County and Lanzhou, capital city of Gansu. A silent tribute will be observed at 10 a.m.
Sunday is the seventh day since the mudslide occurred and, according to some Chinese traditions, the seventh day after a death marks the height of the mourning period.
Large-scale national displays of mourning are rare in China.
China observed a three-day national mourning period after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and a one-day national mourning after the Yushu quake on April 14 this year.
On both occasions, the national flag was lowered to half-mast and all public entertainment was suspended.
(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2010)