Chinese President Li Xiannian welcomed George Bush to his country's embassy here last night, culminating a day that turned into one behemoth photo opportunity.

Appearing more animated than he has since his Sunday arrival, the 76-year-old Li was like a little boy at his own birthday party. He stood in the doorway to the embassy parlor, waving enthusiastically to his guests as they ambled down the hall.

"Where's your wife?" he called to Henry Kissinger.

"She couldn't make it because of a slight indisposition," replied the former secretary of state.

"Give her my regards," said Li.

During lulls in the receiving line, Li took a shine to the press corps, quizzing reporters on their numbers and their organizations.

"We are starting to get like that in China," he said, referring to the large number of Washington reporters, "but I don't think they have as many in the Soviet Union."

Among the other guests at the dinner in Bush's honor were Secretary of State George Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, national security affairs adviser Robert McFarlane, and House Minority Leader Robert Michel.

Li had already spent his political capital at the state dinner Tuesday when he told the president in his toast that the question of Taiwan remains a problem for the two countries. Last night, he settled for basic pleasantries.

"The Sino-U.S. relations have traversed a zigzag course," he said. "For years China and the U.S. used to be estranged from each other. However, we finally normalized our relations by joint efforts. In the future we will continue to cooperate for the benefit of world peace and world economic development. . ."

In his toast, Bush raised his glass to friendship and the hope that it will "grow and be enriched through increased economic, scientific and cultural ties."

Earlier in the day, Li kept a frantic schedule, from museum to meeting to luncheon to meeting. With sirens shouting and the Chinese press on his heels, he gave a little zip to your basic sticky July day.

At a tour of the Air and Space Museum for Li and 50 reporters, some of the more exciting moments came when Mary Masserini from the Office of Protocol did her imitation of a Marine drill sergeant, screaming "MOVE BACK," or "LET'S MOVE IT," or "NO, NOT THERE" about once every 10 seconds. It was 8 a.m. She hit one cameraman in the leg because he stood on a couch, and later on, when another asked her to stop yelling, she told him he could leave if he didn't like it. State visits do this to people.

House Speaker Tip O'Neill and Majority Leader Robert Dole welcomed Li to the Capitol later in the morning for a tour of the Rotunda. Again, the press was roped off behind neat velvet ropes. At one point, O'Neill was explaining the structure and history of the Rotunda to Li -- complete with broad gestures and big smiles -- when it became apparent that the Chinese president was behind him, about three feet away, and facing in another direction. It was good for a few laughs from the crusty scribes.

By the day's end, on his own turf, Li looked happy and rested, despite a conveyor belt of a trip that would have made even the most hearty tourist pale.

"Hectic," he sighed, smiling. "Very hectic."