Going Home: Why 春運 Means Much More Than the "World's Largest Human Migration"

It’s that time of the year again. Dust off the grime of the subway, and any remaining makeup from last night’s party, say goodbye to your English identity of?Justin, Jennifer, Lily or Alan, put on your simplest clothes –?you know, the ones that won’t make your parents feel nervous – squeeze all those gifts into your luggage, and get ready to be interrogated?by the relatives who insist on calling you all the annoying rural nicknames you have tried so hard to forget (鐵蛋 tiě dàn, 丫丫 yā yā, 翠花 cuì huā, or 柱子 zhùzi). It's time to head home for 春節?chūnjié, Spring Festival.

Chūnjié and chūn yùn?–?what's the difference?

Whether you dub it the?largest migration on the Earth or the ultimate test for Chinese public transportation system,?the names for this annual family reunion migration are many. While this is not actually?a China-exclusive phenomenon?–?think of all the people waiting in the airport to get on the flight home before Thanksgiving or?Christmas?– due to China's sheer population and the density of its numerous megatropolises, 春運 chūn yùn 快3开奖结果查询lit. spring transportation, easily overshadows its peers?and usually headlines around the world.

As is tradition, the mass exodus begins 15 days prior (Jan 10) to the festival (Jan 25 this year) and ends 25 days after it (Feb 18), lasting in total for some 40 days. The longest chun yun??a whopping?63 days?–?occurred in 1988 on account of there being too few trains to transport new city dwellers back to their village homes. During that year, it was reported that?around 0.7 million people bought standing tickets every day throughout the chun yun period.

Forty years of chun yun

This year happens to be the 40th anniversary since the concept of chun yun was first?introduced to the public in national press such as People’s Daily?and Xinhua?back in 1980. This was also the year that China officially reinstated the Spring Festival holiday, It was only three years later that?central government started to become aware of the various transportation limitations and problems that arose with such a massive upheaval of people.

快3开奖结果查询In the?years since, both the Chinse economy and the?demographic distribution of the country has changed radically.?People in the countryside have flooded into the cities to seek better?opportunities in education,?work, and life. Therefore, the majority of the workforce in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and other first-tier cities are not in fact locals, but from all over China. They decide to study or work in these big cities?– maybe for months, or years– only returning home once or twice a year.

快3开奖结果查询Spring Festival is then the?most important holiday on the Chinese calendar because its length often guarantees the only chance?that?migrant workers have to go back to their families.

Coping with public transportation pressure

快3开奖结果查询The collective nostalgic urge for everyone to return to their hometowns puts enormous pressure on China's public transportation system, with the railway network straining the most as it is far more affordable compared to the flights and can increasingly reach deep into the most?remote?areas of China.

In response to this pressure, the government has?over?the past 30 years or so?been exploring how to improve both the capacity and efficiency of its public transportation systems. Numerous policies have been adopted, such as adding more trains, expanding the railway network,?punishing?黃牛 huáng niú?ticket scalpers or touts, and?even raising ticket prices to discourage passengers from traveling and to instead stay in the city for?CNY. Yet nothing can dissuade millions of?Chinese people from returning home.

In?2013, with the children of China's baby boomer generation having reached?working age, the country saw an unprecedented number of people traveling home with 3.6 billion individual trips via public transportation in 41 days. The trend has subsided in recent years due to?slowing population growth and the saturation of labor markets in the first-tier cities. Development and increased job opportunities in lower-tier cities and parts of the countryside?also mean?that fewer people have to travel such long distances.

Still, not everyone will be able to hop on a train home this year, especially those who?didn't?plan weeks in advance. In this case, their best?bet will be to break?the whole trip into shorter sections or take?huge detours (a common, but an arduous process, where people may even fly to nearby countries to make transfer flights).

Like salmon swimming upstream for thousands of kilometers?to bring the new lives to this world, the annual Chinese tradition of battling halfway across the country to reunite with family might not be a fun or easy one, but tradition and the thought of what lies ahead keeps?people going.

We wish everyone who is?traveling home or otherwise?a very happy Chinese New Year.

Not in the mood to go home?
Take a look at the travel destinations that got us hooked?instead.

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