Chinese throng trains and buses as year of tiger sparks annual migration


MILLIONS of Chinese boarded buses, trains and planes at the weekend for the world’s largest annual human migration, as they went home to their families to celebrate the start of the year of the tiger on February 14th.

About 2.5 billion trips are expected over 40 days. The rail ministry said four million people travelled by train across China on Saturday alone.

A tiger year is particularly auspicious in the Chinese zodiac, symbolising power, force and strength. Getting back to your home town for the lunar new year party is essential and people put up with alarming hardships in overcrowded train stations and airports to get home.

“I bought a seat from Beijing to Hangzhou,” says Li Jia (25), a graduate student who has been studying in Beijing for over six years.

“The journey is terrible. It takes more than 14 hours. And the seat . . . I could not sleep very well, since the carriage light was on during the whole night. I should have bought a sleeper but I want to save some money for my family. But anyway, I made it.”

She adds: “I have to go back home. All my family is expecting me to come back. I miss them. They are worth spending 14 hours in a train for, although it was tired.

“I tried to drink less, so that I did not have to go to the toilet very often. The toilet is okay, but not greatly clean. During the night I heard some people snore, so I listened to some music, played with my cellphone, viewed the sky becoming bright. I like the sunrise.”

In northern China, people make jiaozi dumplings with their families, while the southern Chinese prefer rice cakes. Parents give their children cash gifts in hong bao (red envelopes), which they put under their pillows.

Jing Jiajun (27), comes from Mianyang in Sichuan province and he flew home. “It is fairly okay, the flight was about three-quarters full and my parents and my aunt met me at the airport,” he says.

“I did not have to spend any money on my flight since I got my ticket using air miles. Spring festival is about family reunion. I am a busy man. I always do not have enough time to spend with my parents. Now they are getting old. They miss me, care for me. I have to go back, I miss them too.

“And I miss my mother’s cooking,” he laughs.