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“Chunyun”: China’s Annual Mass Migration

“Chunyun”: China’s Annual Mass Migration

Springtime is swiftly approaching and the Lunar New Year has arrived! Chinese New Year follows the Lunar calendar. This means that while the exact date changes every year, the New Year day typically falls between mid-January and mid-February.
This year Chinese New Year, celebrating the year of the Earth Pig, falls on February 5th and lasts until February 19th  with the rising of the next full moon.  The final night of celebration is called the Lantern Festival.  Revelers set off fireworks and float lanterns down rivers, hang them from trees, and fly them in the sky.

In 2019, over 2 billion people will be celebrating the Chinese New Year. While it has always been a family celebration, the massive migration that we see today began in the 1980s. During that time, Chinese workers moved from their rural homes to cities like Shenzhen for employment within the Free Economic Zones established by Deng Xioaping. The Spring Festival is one of the few times that migrant workers can return to their families during the year.  For many, it is the only time they return.  Chinese who live in other countries often travel back to China as well. Increasingly, Chinese are traveling to foreign destinations for the holiday.

This year’s migration, often called chunyun (春运),  or the “Spring Festival Travel Rush,” is predicted to be the largest ever. 2019’s chunyun will include approximately 413 million railway trips (an 8% increase from last year) and 73 million by air (a 12% increase from 2018). An estimated 2.46 billion people are expected to travel overall. For reference, roughly 112.5 million Americans traveled for the Christmas holidays in 2018.

While traffic jams and overcrowded train stations are expected, China’s transportation infrastructure has been rapidly expanding in the past few decades, making this migration logistically possible. During the long trip, the voyagers look forward to spending quality time with their families as they celebrate the Year of the Earth Pig.

– Special Thanks to Kelly Heartquist & Nick Jordan

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