Beijing was the center of jubilant national celebrations Thursday as the country marked 60 years since the founding of New China.
One highlight on a day full of incredible moments came near the end of the evening gala - the event capping a day of excitement and pride - when President Hu Jintao, former President Jiang Zemin, top legislator Wu Bangguo, Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders offered a rare glimpse of their dancing steps and singing voices as they danced hand-in-hand with gala performers.
The evening event culminated in a glittering fireworks display that lit up the sky above Tian'anmen Square, which had been streaked in color when fighter jets passed over during the grand parade in the morning.
Yesterday's sky was the clearest for any National Day Parade since 1957, thanks to cloud-seeding measures that induced rain the night before.
After the 10 am flag-raising ceremony, Hu inspected defense forces from a Red Flag limousine as it cruised along Chang'an Avenue.
About 8,000 military officers, standing in phalanxes of tanks and missiles, formed columns that stretched 3 km.
The military parade was followed by a civilian procession that featured six massive performing groups and 36 formations, comprising 100,000 people. In addition, 60 floats represented everything from China's geographic areas to last year's Olympics.
As the parade passed Tian'anmen Square, 80,000 school children created a sea of color, forming an intricate, often changing backdrop.
Spirits remained high after the 2.5-hour parade ended and again soared for the evening gala, which featured 60,000 people dancing and performing in Tian'anmen Square.
Throughout the day, the celebration highlighted the fact that, in six decades, New China had evolved from a war-torn, economically devastated "failed state" into the world's third-largest economy.
Much of the hardware seen Thursday, from jets and missiles to bottled water, was produced domestically.
It was a far cry from the PRC's first parade in 1949, in which armaments on display had largely been seized during pre-liberation battles and which had been manufactured in 24 countries.
Erik Nilsson contributed to the story