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Sichuan quake victims unite to face the future

BRIDE-TO-BE Deng Ling held a sapling upright while her fiance Li Jun bowed to shovel earth around its roots, both hoping for happiness in their coming married life.

With tears running down her face, 38-year-old Deng made a wish: "We plant the sapling and hope it will bring fruit and happiness to us."

Deng and Li were among the 40 people who lost their spouses in the May 12 earthquake last year. They tied the knot at a group wedding yesterday in Beichuan County in southwestern China's . Beichuan was one of the worst-hit areas in the quake.

The wedding service, funded by the local government, was held in accordance with the folk customs of the Qiang ethnic group in Beichuan. The county lost two-thirds of its population in the quake.

The 8.0-magnitude quake hit southwest China, including most parts of Sichuan, and killed more than 69,000 people. It also left nearly 18,000 missing, more than 374,000 injured and millions homeless.

Yesterday, the 20 couples planted 20 trees at the wedding ceremony as a sign of gratitude for the help and support they have received from others and in expectation of happiness in their own lives, according to the wedding organizer.

A gun salute was included in the ceremony to express the Qiang people's hospitality and their blessings to the new couples, said Chen Xingchun, Communist Party chief of Beichuan, the country's only Qiang autonomous county.

Tang Jirao, one of the bridegrooms, held fast to the hands of Zhang Li, his bride, during the 30-minute ceremony.

"It's a bit cold today, and his hands are warm," Zhang explained with a shy smile.

Having lost his wife in the earthquake, Tang was introduced to Zhang, a primary school teacher, in October.

"He gave me the feeling that he was reliable, though he spoke little," said Zhang.

Like many others who lost their family members, Tang, 51, was reluctant to think of the past.

"I was afraid to stay alone, and I kept myself busy so that I would be exhausted and fall asleep at night," he said.

"I even thought that my life would end that way."


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