Source: Xinhua | 2013-1-8 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
Tourists from the Chinese mainland take pictures of sunrise over the Ali Mountain in Taiwan.
FOR many years divided families celebrated Spring Festival on different sides of the Taiwan Strait. But warmer ties mean that people on the island and the mainland can plan family reunions on any side they choose.
Hu Zongyi was nostalgic for his home village after leaving central China's Hunan Province for Taiwan in 1949.
Hu was only 11 years old when he and his mother boarded a ship bound for Taiwan's Keelung from east China's Fujian Province that year. He was too young to understand his mother's hopelessness, neither could he understand the situation that caused the separation between the mainland and Taiwan.
Although Hu missed his sister and former home after growing up, he couldn't even think about going back until 1987, when the high tensions between Taiwan and the mainland ended.
In November 1987, Taiwanese authorities gave approval for their citizens to return to the mainland, most of them military veterans or refugees who went to Taiwan with the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1949.
The move broke the 38-year-long absolute separation between the two sides and triggered a rush of Taiwanese people visiting the mainland.
The year 1949 witnessed great vicissitudes in China, as the Communist Party of China (CPC) won a civil war against the KMT after the two sides failed to reach an agreement concerning the arrangement of state power following the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945).
No one could escape the suffering caused by the civil war. Many ordinary farmers joined the war, most of them involuntarily, or left home to flee the violence. They died on bloody battlefields or retreated to Taiwan with the KMT.
It was estimated that almost 2 million servicemen and civilians went to Taiwan in 1949. Only those who left when they were young were old enough to witness 1987.
Hu joined Taiwan's army and was stationed in Kinmen, only kilometers away from the mainland city of Xiamen, in the 1960s. Tensions were high between both sides at the time.
"I often stood under the night sky, staring at the mainland with tears in my eyes," Hu says. "I didn't think I would have a chance to go back home, believing I would have to live and die on the island."
When Hu learned that Taiwan authorities were allowing citizens to return to the mainland, he burst into tears of both joy and sorrow, as his mother had already passed away on the island.
After he retired from the military, Hu finally went back to Hunan via Hong Kong, as the two sides had not established direct flight links at that time.
"I felt excited, but also sad, because I knew some of my relatives were gone," Hu says. "When I saw my uncle, we embraced each other, crying bitterly, as we never thought we would meet again."
Conversely, there are also Taiwanese who ended up living on the mainland due to the civil war. In 1946, 15-year-old Taiwanese Hsu Zhao-lin was sent to the frontline of the civil war on the mainland and stayed there from that point on.
After 42 years, Hsu became head of an association helping veterans in Taiwan return home to the mainland. Hsu received the first group of people to visit their homes in Beijing.
Hsu envied them a great deal, because he, vice chairman of the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, was not allowed by Taiwan authorities to go back home.
In 1994, Hsu was finally allowed to go back Taiwan.
The 86-year-old He Biao is another Taiwanese who lived on the mainland. He left his home in Beijing in early 1945 and joined anti-Japanese guerrilla forces at a time when Taiwan was still under Japanese occupation. He never thought that he would have to wait for half a century to go back home.
After the victory over the Japanese in September 1945, his parents and younger brother all went back to Taiwan from Beijing. The separation of the mainland and Taiwan prevented him from knowing about his father's death in 1955 for 20 years.