President Gordon B. Hinckley made a brief, yet eventful, visit to China, arriving Monday evening and departing about noon on Tuesday. It was the first time a president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has visited China's mainland.
President Hinckley, accepting an invitation arranged through the church-owned Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii to visit a "sister cultural center" in China, visited Shenzhen in the company of President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, Elders Neal A. Maxwell and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Kwok Yuen Tai of the Seventy, who is president of the Asia Area.It seemed that a warmer welcome could not have been extended. A red carpet was rolled out at the entry to Shenzhen Bay Hotel, where President Hinckley and the others were greeted by dignitaries representing Overseas Chinese Town of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Polynesian Cultural Center-styled attraction, Chinese Folk Villages. The villages feature performers in costumes representative of citizens of China's provinces and re-created villages. Other landmarks give a glimpse of the vast nation's many geographic regions.
More than 500 costumed dancers and other performers lined walkways to greet President Hinck-ley and those traveling with him as they visited the folk villages and two other attractions, Splendid China, which is a re-creation in miniature of various regions' villages, cities and landmarks; and Windows of the World, a re-creation of some of the world's major attractions, such as Egypt's pyramids, America's Grand Canyon and France's Eiffel Tower.
Glittering confetti shot from small cannons added sparkle to an already magnificent reception that awaited the group at each location. At one spot, a brass band playing Sousa-style music and performers waving American flags and setting aloft red, white and blue balloons awaited President Hinckley and those accompanying him. At other places, musicians beat drums, blew horns, and played many varieties of native musical instruments as the entourage passed.
President Hinckley's visit to China was a strictly "cultural exchange."
"At the strong urging of Lester Moore, manager of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii," we have come here to Shenzhen, just a short distance inside the border that separates Hong Kong from China, and have been hosted here very generously and magnificently by the people who run a large cultural center here," President Hinckley said in Shenzhen. "It is very impressive. It's a magnificent thing, and shows a variety of cultures of China. We're glad we came."
The idea for the cultural attractions at Shenzhen came after some Chinese guests toured the Polynesian Cultural Center. Over the past 10-15 years, various leaders at the center have helped representatives from China formulate and implement plans for the Chinese centers.
Also in the traveling party were Marjorie Hinckley, wife of President Hinckley; Frances Monson, wife of President Monson; Colleen Maxwell, wife of Elder Maxwell; Elisa Wirthlin, wife of Elder Withlin; and Hui Hua, wife of Elder Tai. They had been in Hong Kong for the dedication of the Hong Kong Temple May 26-27.
President Hinckley was also joined by his daughter Kathleen and husband Alan Barnes, along with their children, Jeff and Katie. The Barnes' daughter Angela and husband Marc Folsom and baby daughter Amy, residents of Tokyo, and the Barnes' grandson Peter Blair of St. Louis, joined the group in Tokyo and went with them to Hong Kong and China.