‘Chunyun’: Spring Festival’s Mass Migration

‘Chunyun’ (春运), the passenger transportation around Chinese New Year, is the biggest annual mass migration of the world. The travel season starts this Sunday.

During Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, many of China’s urban areas become deserted as people return to their native provinces and hometowns to celebrate the new year with their family and friends.

The annual mass migration that occurs around Chinese New Year is called ‘chunyun’ (春运), and it starts 15 days prior to Spring Festival. This year, as the first day of Chinese New Year falls on February 8, chunyun will start on January 24th. It lasts a total of forty days, until March 3.

According to the People’s Daily and other Chinese media, approximately 2,9 billion people will be on the move this year for Spring Festival (#2016春运#全国旅客发送量将达29.1亿人次). This is a 3.6% increase from last year: a new record.


Although the travel season has not started yet, it is already a trending topic on Sina Weibo, as netizens discuss their troubles in obtaining train tickets, or complain about having to work overtime before they leave for Spring Festival.

On its official Weibo account, People’s Daily says that of the total number of 2,9 billion, 2,4 billion people will be on the road, 332 million people will take the train, 54,5 million people travel by airplane, and 42,8 million passengers will go per boat.

  • Total: 2,910,000,000 travellers
  • 2,400,000,000 by road
  • 332,000,000 by train
  • 54,500,000 by airplane
  • 42,800,000 by boat


A netizen named Wang Chuan says: “If you see people wearing very plain clothes at the station or on the train, no matter if it is man or woman, please treat them with respect. You have to know that the majority of the people you see on these pictures are migrant workers (农民工). They struggle to make some money all year long, and it’s very difficult for them to go home!”



The people travelling during Chinese New Year include those who live outside of China, migrant workers, and students who travel back to their hometowns.

“It’s not easy being a train attendant this time of year,” one netizen comments.

One other netizen shows some crying emoticons and says: “I have not been able to get a train ticket yet!” Sales of the chunyun period train tickets have started in late November of 2015, with a peak of ticket-purchasing at the beginning of December.

CCTV warns through its official account that people have to be extra cautious in the coming few days, because there is a large increase in the theft of wallets and mobile phones. The period before and around Chunyun is a popular time for pickpockets who need extra cash for Spring Festival. CCTV also warns travelers not to fall asleep on the train, as it is very easy for thieves to steal their belongings while they are not paying attention.



By Manya Koetse

All images from Weibo, 19.1.2016, People’s Daily.

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