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Little Mermaid Spends 97th Birthday at Expo

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Five-year-old Xin Xin crouches on the second floor of the Denmark Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo and watches ballerinas swim and dance around the Little Mermaid.

"Why are the mermaids dancing in the water?" she asks her mother.

"Because it's the 97th birthday of the mermaid statue standing in the center of the pool," comes the reply.

Xin Xin and her mother were among the tens of thousands of Chinese visitors who came to celebrate the Little Mermaid's first birthday outside Denmark.

On her first visit to the Expo, Wei Yangchen, 15, headed straight to the Denmark Pavilion to see the Little Mermaid.

"I admire her sacrifice and so I wanted to say happy birthday to her," she says.

"I felt sad for the little mermaid when I first heard the story from my mother. But now I understand that she sacrificed herself for love. So she would not have regretted it," Wei says.

An old man with grey hair and one leg paralyzed stood up from his wheelchair with a walking stick and bent over the pool's railing for a closer look at the statue.

"I never dreamt of seeing the little mermaid myself," says the 72-year-old retired teacher surnamed Zha.

Before he retired, Zha used to tell his students at a middle school in east China's Jiangsu Province the fairy tale.

"We knew that Chinese have a very special relationship to Hans Christian Andersen and his fairytales. We wanted to give our visitors the chance to experience the real Little Mermaid," says Christopher Bo Bramsen, commissioner general of the Denmark Pavilion.

More than three million people have come to see the Little Mermaid at the Denmark pavilion, with over 30,000 people coming see the statue on an average day.

The Little Mermaid sculpture, one of Denmark's top tourist attractions, was brought to the Expo to strengthen the ties of friendship between Denmark and China. It will return to Denmark after the Expo ends.

It was created by sculptor Edvard Eriksen and placed in a park in central Copenhagen on Aug. 23, 1913.

It left Copenhagen on March 25 and will return in November after the Shanghai World Expo.

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen was first published in 1836.

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2010)

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