Chunyun

Chunyun

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Chunyun, also referred to as Spring Festival travel season, or Chunyun period, is a period of travel in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 with extremely high traffic load around the time of the Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year – often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar – is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration...

. The period usually begins 15 days before the Lunar New Year's Day and lasts for around 40 days. The number of passenger journeys during the Chunyun period has exceeded the population of China, hitting over 2 billion in 2008. It has been called the largest annual human migration in the world. Rail transport experiences the biggest challenge during the period, and myriad social problems have emerged.

Origin



Three main factors are responsible for the heightened traffic load during the Chunyun period.

First, it is a long-held tradition for most Chinese people to reunite with their families during Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year – often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar – is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration...

. People return home from work or study to have Reunion dinner
Reunion dinner
A reunion dinner is held on New Year's Eve of the Chinese New Year, during which family members get together to celebrate.-Typical menu:The New Year's Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes chicken and pork. Fish is also included, but intentionally not finished, and the remaining fish...

 with their families on New Year's Eve. Since the Chinese economic reforms of the late 1970s, new economic opportunities have emerged, often at a considerable distance from people's hometowns. Places such as the Special Economic Zone
Special Economic Zone
A Special Economic Zone is a geographical region that has economic and other laws that are more free-market-oriented than a country's typical or national laws...

s and the wealthy coastal regions offer employment and often, a more sought-after lifestyle. Consequently, there has been a massive migration from rural to urban areas over the course of the last few decades, reminiscent of other industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

s around the world. The number of these migrant workers was estimated at 50 million at 1990 and unofficially estimated at 150 million to 200 million in 2000.
During the Chunyun period, many of these laborers return to their home towns.

Second, Chinese education reforms have increased the number of university students, who often study outside of their hometown. The Spring Festival holiday period falls around the same time frame as their winter break. Among the 194 million railway passengers of the 2006 Chunyun period were 6.95 million university students.

Finally, because the Spring Festival Period is among the two week-long holiday periods in the People's Republic of China (the other being National Day, Oct 1), many people choose to travel for pleasure around this time. Tourism in mainland China is reaching record levels, further adding to the pressure on the transportation system.

These factors exacerbate current problems with China's current inter-city transportation systems. The railway network is insufficient to handle the number of passengers, and does not reach enough places. The locations not serviced by rail must rely on bus transport, which faces problems such as inadequate equipment and road network.

Impact on transportation systems and related problems


The most affected modes of transportation are inter-city surface passenger transportation systems, namely railway
Rail transport in the People's Republic of China
Rail transport is the most commonly used mode of long-distance transportation in the People's Republic of China. Almost all rail operations are handled by the Ministry of Railways, which is part of the State Council of the People's Republic of China...

 and road
Road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

 networks. Most Chinese middle-class citizens cannot readily afford air transport. International, urban and waterway transportation are slightly affected. Until 2007, due to the high demand, the prices of tickets are increased during the period.. In 2007's Chunyun period (Feb 4-March 14), however, the government imposed strict regulations against inflated prices on railway tickets.

Railway and buses


The Ministry of Railways estimated that 340 million passengers would take trains during the 2009 Chunyun period. However, the average daily capacity of the Chinese railway system is 3.4 million. The shortage of railway resources led many passengers to pay double or even triple-priced tickets from scalpers or to wait in queues for upwards of a day's time at railway stations.

Because of the extremely long waiting period, many customers become frustrated and search for solutions to jump the line, often resulting in conflict. Fighting over places in line is often seen, and as people get closer to the ticket booth, much pushing and shoving ensues. The overworked ticket booth workers are generally frustrated with the repetitive and dull nature of their work, which, in most places in the country, come in long shifts every time, and therefore reflect a largely negative and frustrated image to the customers. Inquiries by customers are not always answered correctly or at all; customers are not offered many options to begin with, if time is allotted for indecision the customer is usually pushed aside by the next person in the line. The same problem is found with phone lines, which saves the anxiety of waiting in line, but are severely overloaded and the reception is often rude when a ticket agent finally picks up after several hours of waiting. In Shenzhen
Shenzhen
Shenzhen is a major city in the south of Southern China's Guangdong Province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong. The area became China's first—and one of the most successful—Special Economic Zones...

 it is estimated that 23 days worth of tickets can be gone in a matter of 14 minutes if telephone was the only method employed. An internet system is present, but at times inadequate.

To fit demand, hundreds of "temporary trains" (Linke
L-series
The L-series trains are temporary trains run by railway bureaus of the People's Republic of China at times when they are thought to be necessary, such as the Chunyun period....

) and hundreds of thousands of temporary buses are operated during this period, the number of ticket offices is increased and selling periods are extended to cope with the demand, with temporary booths springing up. Batch orders from schools and factories are organized to distribute tickets ahead of time. These measures, however, are generally inadequate and often tampered with. For example, during the 2005 Chunyun period, the ticket offices in Shenzhen
Shenzhen
Shenzhen is a major city in the south of Southern China's Guangdong Province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong. The area became China's first—and one of the most successful—Special Economic Zones...

 had tens of telephone lines, and at times got millions of calls per hour. In the Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

 area, the number of calls reached 19.91 million per hour. Guangzhou Railway Group increased the number of telephone lines at their ticket offices to 8,000 in the 2006 Chunyun period.

Due to the basic nature of Chinese railway tickets and the loosely set limitations on the number of "standing tickets" (which is basically a pass to get on a crowded railway car), Scalpers
Ticket resale
Ticket resale is the act of reselling tickets for admission to events. Tickets are bought from licensed sellers and are then sold for a price determined by the individual or company in possession of the tickets. Tickets sold through secondary sources may be sold for less or more than their face...

 (piaofanzi 票贩子 or huangniu 黄牛, lit. yellow cow in Chinese) profit greatly during the Chunyun period. Organizations of scalpers have emerged, and the scalpers inside the sometimes intricate network work collectively to make the most gain out of the tickets. They pick up tickets in great numbers minutes after they go on sale, and then deal them out in and around the railway station at highly inflated prices. A significant problem has also emerged with the illegal dealing of tickets through obsolete ticket modification or even printing outright fake tickets using computer technology. Although measures have been put in place to prevent fake tickets, passengers who purchase the tickets become extremely frustrated when the authenticity of their tickets is questioned only upon arrival at the ticket validation officer, what would be minutes before boarding the train. Because of the worsening nature of the problem, the government has issued many warnings and began various campaigns to crack down on the scalpers. Unfortunately, because of the complicated nature of the problem and the social networks which surround the scalper organizations, police and other authorities who are supposed to be in charge of the crackdown often become involved in the illicit activity themselves, and take many bribes from the scalpers.

There has also developed a significant safety risk during the Chunyun season. Theft, robbery, fraud and other crimes are the most flagrant during the time period. Passenger supervision and checks on luggage become stricter. The common belief in the safety of railway travel is undermined by the fact that many railway cars are severely overcrowded. Bus companies, in order to gain a bigger profit, overwork the bus drivers on irregular schedules, overloading people every round, causing a higher accident rate. Trains also face a problem with scheduling, as an overcrowded network cannot ensure the overall accuracy of train schedules, and some trains are habitually late hours at a time, cause unease and frustration with passengers. The government has taken to passing legislation to regulate late trains, and make a public notice and apology for late trains mandatory.

The passenger flow during the Chunyun period is usually imbalanced. Before the Spring Festival, passengers usually gather in developed coastal cities, railway interchange cities such as Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 and Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

, and basically flow from urban to rural areas. The passenger flow direction is reversed after the Spring Festival. In addition, passenger flow is very sensitive to disruption, such as bad weather. In 2007, round-trip train tickets will be available for college students.

Severe snow storms in late January 2008 stranded many thousands of migrant workers as they attempted to get home. At one time over 100,000 people were at the main railway station in the southern city of Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

. Around 1.3 million troops and reservists were drafted in around the country to clear blocked roads and rail lines to enable people to travel.

Air


Air transportation is less affected as most travelers are workers who cannot afford air transport, but nevertheless the Chunyun impact is increasing. In 2008 roughly 28 million passengers used air transportation as their method of travel inside China. Xiamen Airlines
Xiamen Airlines
Xiamen Airlines is the first privately owned airline in the People's Republic of China. Established on July 25, 1984 and based in Xiamen, it operates scheduled passenger flights out of Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport and, to a lesser extent, Fuzhou Changle International Airport...

, for example, added nearly 210 flights to its roster during the Chunyun period, with thirty flights especially placed to Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and Macau
Macau
Macau , also spelled Macao , is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China...

 and another ten flights to international destinations in Southeast Asia and Korea. Cross-strait flights
Three Links
The Three Links or Three Linkages was a "message of Compatriots in Taiwan" calling for the unification of mainland China and Taiwan. It was sent by the PRC National People's Congress in 1979....

 between Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 and mainland China were also permitted during this period before regular year-round flights were established. To prevent accidents in the air, the Chinese government has brought in very strict regulations on not overloading planes. The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC
CAAC
CAAC is an acronym which may refer to the following:* Civil Aviation Administration of China, an administrative body of the People's Republic of China* Capital Area Activities Conference, a high school sports league centered around Lansing, Michigan...

) estimates at least 36 million passengers will fly during the 2009 Chunyun period.

Sources

  • M.W.H., Railroad in the clouds, Trains
    Trains (magazine)
    Trains is a monthly magazine dedicated to trains and railroads, and is one of the two flagship publications of Kalmbach Publishing. The magazine is read both by railroad enthusiasts, commonly referred to as railfans, and those within the railroad industry....

     March 2002
  • Chinese internet film director Hu Ge
    Hu Ge (director)
    Hu Ge is an amateur director in the People's Republic of China who rose to fame through social satire and the Internet. His works, which are videos which can be downloaded from video-sharing sites such as YouTube, and freely distributed by his permission, are viewed by millions...

    has made a parody film about the phenomenon.

External links