Couples kiss during a mass wedding ceremony in front of the presidential office in Taipei [Reuters]

One hundred happy couples gathered outside Taipei's Presidential Palace on Saturday for a mass wedding presided over by the Taiwanese president, in celebration of the self-ruled island's 100th anniversary.

Crowds and the couples gathered in the early morning for the ceremony, which included the raising of the national flag.

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's China-friendly president, called the day a "milestone in history".

"This is not the first time for a lot of people, including me, to attend a flag-raising ceremony, but today
is different. Aside from the flag-raising, more important is the development of history," Ma said.

"The whole world is celebrating the New Year but for Taiwan, this is a milestone in history, our country is 100 years-old."

Taiwan counts its founding from the overthrow of the last Chinese imperial dynasty and establishment of a republic in 1911.

It has been under self-rule since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s.

Since Ma took office in 2008, the two sides have signed historic but relatively easy trade and transit deals, avoiding politics or defence.

Beijing hopes those talks will lead eventually to political unification.

Source: Agencies