A group of young artists in ancient Chinese costumes turned out to be one of the most eye-catching parts of a grand parade marking the 445th birthday of William Shakespeare in his hometown on Saturday.
"We are more than happy to be part of the celebration of the 445th birthday of Shakespeare, one of the world's greatest men," said Tian Zheng, an actor with the National Theater of China.
Tian, who played the prince in the Mandarin Chinese version of Hamlet staged in Shakespeare's hometown, said that he and fellow performers from Beijing and Hong Kong find it a privilege to share people's admiration and respect to the great playwright and poet.
The Chinese version of Hamlet, staged three days in a row at the Civic Hall of Stratford-upon-Aven, proved to be a success in that many local Shakespeare fans gave high marks to their performance, said James Mark, the director.
"Though I could not understand Mandarin Chinese, I can see that artists from China are superb in their performance and people find their costumes fantastic," Nigel, a local Shakespeare fan, said.
"Ni Hao! (hello) Chinese King! Ni Hao, Chinese Hamlet!" local spectators find the Mandarin phrases they pick up perhaps from some Chinese restaurants the very words to greet the Chinese artists.
Along with thousands of people, the Chinese artists in their colorful costumes started from the Shakespeare birthplace and ended up in the Holy Trinity Church to pay tribute to the Englishman most of them regard as the king of plays.
The Chinese artists are only part of the guests from over 17 countries around the world to make the pilgrimage from Shakespeare's birthplace to his grave at the Holy Trinity Church. The guest list also includes ambassadors from China, the United States, Canada, Japan, Croatia and Ireland.
Students from Oxford University, Cambridge University, Birmingham University and local schools like the Shakespeare Institute and Shakespeare Preparatory School were also in the parade.
The 2009 celebrations, which run for an extended four-day period from April 23 to 26, are a taster thing, which marks the start of a three-year journey toward the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival in 2012 as part of the official 2012 Cultural Olympiad, said Diana Owen, director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, an independent Charity organization.