President Gordon B. Hinckley received a warm welcome from his hosts in China as he became, on May 28, the first president of the Church to visit the mainland.
President Hinckley accepted an invitation arranged through the Church-owned Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii to visit a "sister cultural center" in China. He visited Shenzhen in the company of President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, who is vice chairman of the Polynesian Cultural Center; and Elder Kwok Yuen Tai of the Seventy, who is president of the Asia Area. They had been in Hong Kong for the dedication of the Hong Kong Temple May 26-27.Accompanying their husbands were Sisters Marjorie Hinckley, Frances Monson, Colleen Maxwell, Elisa Wirthlin and Hui Hua Tai.
A red carpet literally was unrolled at the entry of the Shenzhen Bay Hotel where President Hinckley and the others were greeted by dignitaries representing Overseas Chinese Town of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and a Polynesian Cultural Center-styled attraction, Chinese Folk Villages. The villages feature performers in costumes representative of citizens of China's provinces, and the re-created villages and 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 Hinckley 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 of China's 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, North America's Grand Canyon and France's Eiffel Tower.
Glittering confetti shot from small cannons added sparkle to an already bright and 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 just about every variety of native musical instrument as the entourage passed by.
President Hinckley's visit to China was strictly a "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."
Before leaving Shenzhen, President Hinckley said to his host, "We are thankful for your kindness. We have appreciated your hospitality. We will remember with pleasure this day. We will remember it with satisfaction always. Thank you so very much."
President Hinckley then extended an invitation for them to "come and visit the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii."
At a luncheon in his honor on May 28, President Hinckley signed a guest book and wrote a personal message: "Thank you for all you have done for us. This is a wonderful place. I congratulate you on what you are doing here. My very best wishes. From your friends at the PCC, Hawaii."
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 PCC have helped representatives from China formulate and implement plans for the Chinese centers.
John Muaina, the senior vice president of human resources at the Polynesian Cultural Center, represented the center at a formal dinner hosted by the Chinese officials.