BEIJING, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese people celebrated another year of achievements Friday when they marked the 61st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China with pride and passion.
China's second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e II, is also scheduled to launch later on the Oct. 1 National Day holiday, capping a year that has seen the nation become the world's second-largest economy and host to the biggest and most popular World Expo.
In downtown Beijing, more than 150,000 people -- many wearing traditional costumes of different ethnic groups -- from across the country gathered in the Tian'anmen Square to watch a grand flag raising ceremony early Friday.
President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders laid flower baskets at the Monument to the People's Heroes on the square Friday to pay their respects to those who sacrificed their lives to build the nation.
Sangye, an ethnic Tibetan, came to Tian'anmen to watch the flag-raising ceremony from his hometown of Yushu, in the northwestern Qinghai Province, where a devastating earthquake left thousands dead in April.
"The whole nation offered to help us when the quake struck. I came here to express my heart-felt appreciation for the motherland," he said.
In Shanghai, the China National Pavilion Day was celebrated at the World Expo.
"We will build a moderately prosperous society at a higher level by 2020 to benefit our over 1 billion people, and will realize modernization by the middle of this century," top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo said in addressing the celebration ceremony.
The first World Expo ever hosted by a developing country, the Shanghai event has drawn participants from 246 countries and international organizations, more than 100 foreign leaders and almost 60 million Chinese and foreign visitors in the past five months.
"You have achieved new records -- a record number of participants, a record number of visitors -- and you have built the largest site ever," Vicente Loscertales, secretary-general of the International Expositions Bureau said at the ceremony.
Many other Chinese cities also organized flag raising functions to mark the National Day Friday, the first day of the "golden week" holiday when millions of people travel for family reunions and holidays.
Also Friday, China, which became the third nation with the capabilities to send a man into space in 2003, is set to launch its second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e II, from the southwestern Sichuan Province.
"I feel very proud today," said Sarentuya, an ethnic Mongolian resident of Alxa League, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
"In the past, China's Shenzhou spacecraft have blasted off from my hometown. Today, I will see the Chang'e lunar probe launched from another corner of the country. I believe the Chinese will eventually land on moon," he said.