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August 28, 2010

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Taiwan writer's plea for peace

TAIWAN writer and cultural figurehead Li Ao, on his second return visit to the Chinese mainland, called for "cross-Strait peace" at the Taiwan Pavilion at the World Expo yesterday.

Li launched a traditional Kong-Ming-Lantern inscribed with "cross-Strait peace," which sailed to the top of the pavilion as a symbol of his wish.

"Why do I wish for cross-Strait peace? Because I think it's the key," said the 75-year-old.

Li, a mainland-born author, scholar and critic, arrived in Shanghai on Thursday to visit the Expo and to take his son, Li Kan, 18, to Peking University, where he has been admitted by the school of economics.

Li said the pavilions of China, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Spain, Italy and Saudi Arabia had been on his list to visit.

At the China Pavilion, Li, pointing to his trademark red jacket, said the color was the same as the China Pavilion, painted red in tribute to the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Li was born in 1935 in the northeastern Heilongjiang Province and was brought up in Beijing until the age of 14. He left for Taiwan in 1949 when he was a high school student. In 2005, Li returned to the mainland for the first time.

That 10-day "Chinese cultural trip" in 2005, which was arranged by Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, was closely watched by media across the Taiwan Strait and abroad.

Li said the China Pavilion made him thoroughly understand things "from ancient to modern times," and his understanding became "more concrete." He was impressed by the pavilion's 128-meter multimedia scroll painting, "Along the River during the Qingming Festival," a well-known artwork depicting life in an ancient Chinese city.

"Taiwan also has a version of the painting, but it is extraordinary that I see today at the World Expo a spectacular animation," he said.

Describing the Chinese provincial pavilions as "gorgeous," he received a paper-cut gift from a girl at the Shanghai Pavilion.

His son, Li Kan, showed great interest in the high-tech elements at the Expo Garden and said he wanted to make friends on the mainland.

Li Kan became known to mainland Internet users this month in a debate with outspoken Shanghai-based writer Han Han.

Li's family will visit the Expo Garden over the weekend.

Li is known for his profound knowledge of traditional Chinese culture.

"Over the past six decades, I've rarely left Taiwan. The only trip outside Taiwan was the 2005 trip to the mainland. Now, this is my second trip back to the mainland," he said.

A legendary figure in the eyes of many Chinese readers, Li is a prolific writer of criticism, an ardent supporter of Chinese unification, and an earnest scholar.

He received a Nobel Prize nomination in 2000 after the publication of his historical novel, "The Fayuan Temple of Beijing."


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