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Mermaid birthday bash

FIVE-YEAR-OLD Xin Xin crouched on the second floor of the Denmark Pavilion at the Expo yesterday and watched the ballerinas swim and dance around the Little Mermaid.

"Why are the mermaids dancing in the water?" she asked her mother.

"Because it's the 97th birthday of the mermaid statue standing in the center of the pool," was the reply.

Xin Xin and her mother were among the tens of thousands of Chinese visitors who came to celebrate the Little Mermaid's first birthday outside Denmark.

On her first visit to the Expo, Wei Yangchen, 15, headed straight to the Denmark Pavilion to see the Little Mermaid.

"I wanted to say happy birthday to her," she said. "I felt sad for the little mermaid when I first heard the story from my mother. But now I understand that she sacrificed herself for love. So she would not have regretted it."

Lu Xue, a Chinese paper cutting artist, showcased her skill to mark the birthday celebration.

She was invited as a special guest because Lu has spent seven years creating a total of 112 pieces of paper cuts of characters from the fairy tales of famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, who also wrote the Little Mermaid. Her works cover a variety of characters, including the Ugly Duckling, Snow Queen and Little Match Girl.

The beauty of her work is in the extraordinary details she adds to each scene.

In the "story" of the Snow Queen, Lu cut different patterns on the "curtains" in the background of each piece to show the personalities of the characters.

She cut out round patterns resembling human eyes to stress the evil of the "witch" while replacing the round patterns with butterflies to show the Snow Queen's beauty.

If you look carefully, wrinkles, whiskers and even tears can be seen on the faces of the characters.

"Every tiny detail has to present some idea from the artist so people will have more fun 'reading' them," said Lu.

The paper cuts are now being exhibited in Denmark.

Denmark's Prince Henrik has honored Lu, 39, for her work, awarding her the Silver Cross of the Order of Dannebrog. She is the first Chinese paper cutting artist to receive the award.

Meanwhile, more than 3 million people have come to see the Little Mermaid at the Expo, with over 30,000 coming to see the statue on an average day.

The Little Mermaid sculpture, one of Denmark's top tourist attractions, will return home after the Expo.

It was created by sculptor Edvard Eriksen and placed in a park in central Copenhagen on August 23, 1913. The Little Mermaid was first published in 1836.


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