Ma Ying-jeou, leading a delegation from Taiwan, arrived in Shanghai on Monday afternoon to start a visit to the Chinese mainland until April 7, making him the first former leader of the island to visit the mainland.
Seniors officials from the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the CPC Shanghai Committee greeted him at an airport in Shanghai. The delegation left for Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on Monday afternoon, according to Xinhua News Agency.
During the trip, Ma will worship his ancestors on the occasion of Tomb Sweeping Day, and lead young Taiwan students to strengthen exchanges with their mainland counterparts. The delegation will also visit other mainland cities including Wuhan, Changsha and Chongqing.
In a brief speech at an airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, before his departure, Ma said that it was his first visit to the mainland, the island media Chinatimes.com reported.
"In fact, when I was 37 years old, I dealt with cross-Straits affairs in the government. I am 73 years old now, and I have waited 36 years for the opportunity to visit the mainland. It was indeed a long time, but I am glad I can go there," he said.
The mainland welcomes Ma's visit and is willing to provide necessary assistance, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said in a statement earlier this month.
"It's a Chinese tradition to pay careful attention to ancestor worship, and it's also a common custom of the compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits to do such things on Qingming," he said.
Ma served as the island leader between 2008 and 2016, during which the two sides of the Taiwan Straits saw wide exchanges and cooperation on the basis of adhering to the 1992 Consensus, which embodies the one-China principle, and opposing "Taiwan independence".