XIAMEN, June 18 (Xinhua) -- In the coastal city of Xiamen, a festive mood is in the air as an annual cross-Strait forum is underway.
The mainland city lies a stone's throw away from Taiwan and has played host to the Straits Forum for the past decade.
The event is known for promoting extensive and grass-roots exchanges across the Taiwan Strait. A record number of more than 10,000 people from Taiwan are attending, according to organizers. Among them, 40 percent are first-time attendees.
"So many people are here. The rising trend of people-to-people exchanges across the Taiwan Strait is irresistible," said Lee Cheng-hung, head of the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland.
FROM SONGS TO MARRIAGES
Themed on expanding people-to-people exchanges and deepening integrated development, this year's forum has altogether 67 activities. On Sunday, organizers started the main conference with two singing performances that showed both sides of the Taiwan Strait shared the same cultural roots.
The choir of Xiamen No. 6 Middle School first sang "Fish swimming amongst lotus," a ballad with lyrics from a poem dating back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD).
It was followed by a guitar solo by veteran Taiwan singer Peter Chen. The 75-year-old chose a song with similar poetic lyrics from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).
"My root, my hometown, my country. I have been yearning for thou thousand times over," he sang.
Songs are just one of the many cultural elements that have drawn people across the Strait closer.
Over the years, more people move across the Strait to study and work. They settle down and some find love.
According to mainland official figures, the number of cross-Strait families has exceeded 390,000 and keeps growing by about 10,000 a year.
"At the beginning, my parents did not approve of us. They didn't want me to marry into a family so far from home," said Yang Guoyu, who met her Taiwan sweetheart on the internet 11 years ago.
They fell in love, and Yang moved from northeast China to settle in Taipei.
"These days we often shuttle between cities across the Strait," Yang said. "It is so convenient now."
WORK ON OTHER SIDE OF STRAIT
Over the past decades, the mainland's rapid economic development has given people in Taiwan ample opportunities to invest and work on the other side of the Strait.
Young businessman Fanchiang-feng shared his personal story at the forum. In 2009, he took an offer to work on the mainland, much to his parents' dismay.
When he landed at Xiamen, Fanchiang was comforted by hearing the same Hokkien dialect that was spoken at home. He went through a lot of ups and downs and eventually founded the start-up incubator Qida Entrepreneurship in 2016.
In less than three years, the company has helped more than 300 young people from Taiwan launch 150 start-up projects in Fujian Province. He won an honorary title for his work by the provincial authorities and a congratulatory text message from his father at home: "Son, I am proud of you!"
"My dad had never praised me like that for 30 years," Fanchiang told the audience at the forum, winning a round of applause.
To help more young people from Taiwan to find jobs on the mainland, a job fair was held on the sidelines of the forum.
Nearly 130 employers, consultancies and business incubators were present. Over 2,300 job and internship openings were on offer. Hundreds of Taiwan job seekers showed up at the fair while many more applied to the openings online, the organizers said.
Chou Wei-chen, a biological technology graduate from Taiwan, said he was looking for a job here because the mainland invests heavily in the biology industry and has more opportunities to offer.
Prior to the forum, Xiamen announced 45 measures to facilitate cross-Strait exchanges and integrated development. The measures aim to build Xiamen into a demonstration zone for Taiwan business and people who come to the mainland to invest and work.
Additional support is prescribed to people from Taiwan when they buy apartments, apply for intellectual property rights, study or teach in schools and work in medical institutions in Xiamen, according to the measures.
Wu Chia-ying, head of Taiwan business association in Xiamen, said the measures reflect the trend of cooperation and are practical. The policies will make life much easier for Taiwan compatriots here, he said.
Fanchiang, the Taiwan entrepreneur, encouraged more young people from Taiwan to pursue their careers on the mainland as it is leading the world in a number of sectors.
"In Taiwan, we might not be able to set sight on the world. But the world is paying attention to what we do here on the mainland," Fanchiang said.