James Soong Chu-yu made an emotional visit to his home village yesterday to sweep the tombs of his grandparents - key stops on his mainland tour ahead of his meetings with President Hu Jintao and Vice-President Zeng Qinghong in Beijing later this week. The chairman of Taiwan's People First Party along with family members including 87-year-old mother Hu Tiao-jung, wife Viola Chan Wan-shui, son Soong Cheng-yuan and the family of his brother, Soong Chu-sheng, were welcomed by thousands of excited farmers who flocked to Juyu village to catch a glimpse of the celebrities. Villagers held banners and billboards with slogans such as 'Mr Soong, your hometown wishes you well', and 'Chu-yu, your family is waiting for you' and set off firecrackers along muddy lanes. Lion and dragon dances and traditional drum performances were also staged to greet the Soong family. Mr Soong and his wife bowed and waved to the cheering crowds on their way to the tombs of his great-grandfather and his grandmother and stopped from time to time to speak to the crowds in the Hunanese dialect. 'When I accompanied the coffin of my grandmother here in 1948, it was an impoverished village. I am very excited to see the development,' he told hundreds of the onlookers who had been waiting on the narrow farm lanes for hours. Mr Soong's elderly mother, who appeared in good spirits, was carried to the tombs on a sedan. When he paid tribute to his grandfather and grandmother, Mr Soong wept and filled a paper cup with soil from the tomb of his grandfather in Xiangtan. Villagers from Juyu village, a farming community which earns a modest income by growing rice, said they had not known much about Mr Soong before. However, after an intense publicity campaign even 15-year-old Zeng Yao could tell you that Mr Soong used to run around the village barefoot. Some relatives of Mr Soong, who had not been picked by local officials to meet him at a five-star hotel in Xiangtan city at noon, waved a banner in the crowd. Song Yangjian , Mr Soong's aunt, said local officials had passed her gift to him. 'It is a gold coin to mark the handover of Hong Kong. Now that Hong Kong has returned, there is only Taiwan left,' she said. The hotel reunion after the tomb sweeping was also politically charged. Between hugs and tears and under the watchful eyes of local officials, relatives praised Mr Soong for his achievements and urged him to promote the unification of the mainland and Taiwan.