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Chinese Migration for Spring Festival

Photographer: How Hwee Young


In the freezing hours before dawn, Wang Pengfei is already awake in the tiny dormitory room he shares with six other co-workers on the outskirts of Beijing. The migrant worker is working in the capital city as a delivery man and preparing to visit his family in the Shandong Province for the annual Chinese Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. This is the only time he gets to see his family each year.


Wang will join millions of fellow Chinese travelers making their way back home as they pack trains, planes and buses, in what is the largest human migration in the world. The journey, known as 'Chunyun' - the annual spring migration, will involve a total of 2,98 billion trips, starting from 13 January and continuing until 21 February 2017.


It will take almost an entire day for Wang to reach his hometown in the rural Yuncheng county of Heze in Shandong Province, about 600 kilometres south of Beijing. He will queue and travel among massive crowds of people and journey via an assortment of public transport including tricycle taxi, subway train, rail, bus and car.


Wang's experience is the story of many others seeking a better life outside of their hometowns in big cities. He went to Beijing to work for a 'Kuaidi' or delivery company two years earlier, when he heard that he could earn more than double the what he could make in his hometown. The additional money, however, came at great personal cost, as Wang needed to leave his wife, two young children and aged parents behind.


Wang says, 'After all these time away, I am very excited to go back and see my family. Once they heard I am going home, my children call me every day.'


Back home, Wang is greeted enthusiastically by his 6-year-old son Ruiqi and 9-year-old daughter Yaqin. Wang is apologetic because he only received his salary the day before he left Beijing and did not have time to buy presents. However, his children and parents are just happy to have him back and they celebrate with a big dinner of steamed fish, roast chicken, soup, vegetables and pork buns.