Train passengers travelling during the Spring Festival travel rush ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year arrive at Hengyang Railway Station in Hunan
Train passengers travelling during the Spring Festival travel rush ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year. Image via Reuters
Asia

Photos of 1.5 Billion People Travelling Home for Lunar New Year

The world's largest annual human migration sees airports, train stations, and freeways flooded with droves of people heading home.
05 February 2019, 3:28am

Every year, more than a billion people pour through China’s public transport system in what has been described as the world’s largest annual human migration. Over the course of some 40 days—spanning from late-January until early-March—droves of Chinese nationals swarm home to be with their families for the Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year: an event celebrating the beginning of the new year according to the traditional Chinese calendar.

It’s a significant date not just in China, but throughout Asia. It's a time to reunite with loved ones, to gorge on food, and get one’s house in order. And in order to do that, huge masses of migrant workers and people living away from their familial homes flood onto airports, train stations, and freeways to make their way home. There are stories of traffic jams lasting 34 hours and railway station queues winding on for days. Last year, it was predicted that about 1.5 billion people would be undertaking 2.8 billion passenger-journeys around China alone throughout the New Year period.

Photos from the frontline of this mass migration capture the hectic intensity of so many people on the move. Train stations thronging with the crush of the crowds; seemingly endless lines of commuters stacking up alongside train carriages. These images are suffocating and stressful at a glance. But they also reflect a certain love of tradition. A dogged commitment to family ties, and to an event that is considered the most important holiday on the calendar, year after year.

Passengers wait to board trains at Shanghai's Hongqiao Railway Station as the annual Spring Festival travel rush begins ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Shanghai

Passengers wait to board trains at Shanghai's Hongqiao Railway Station as the annual Spring Festival travel rush begins ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Shanghai

People wait to board a train on the last day of Chinese Lunar New Year holidays at a railway station in Jiujiang.

People wait to board a train on the last day of Chinese Lunar New Year holidays at a railway station in Jiujiang

A man carries his belongings as he walks among passengers on the first day of the annual Spring Festival travel rush ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, at a railway station in Jiaxing, Zhejiang

A man carries his belongings as he walks among passengers on the first day of the annual Spring Festival travel rush ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, at a railway station in Jiaxing, Zhejiang

Passengers wait to board trains at Beijing Railway Station as they travel ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Beijing

Passengers wait to board trains at Beijing Railway Station as they travel ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Beijing

A security personnel guides passengers to enter a subway at Beijing Railway Station during the Chinese Lunar New Year travel rush in Beijing

A security personnel guides passengers to enter a subway at Beijing Railway Station during the Chinese Lunar New Year travel rush in Beijing

Passengers wait to board trains at Shanghai's Hongqiao Railway Station.

Passengers wait to board trains at Shanghai's Hongqiao Railway Station

Passengers wait to enter a railway station during the annual Spring Festival travel rush. Image via Reuters

Passengers wait to enter a railway station during the annual Spring Festival travel rush. All images via Reuters

People line up at the subway station outside Beijing Railway Station on the last day of Chinese Lunar New Year holidays in Beijing.

People line up at the subway station outside Beijing Railway Station on the last day of Chinese Lunar New Year holidays in Beijing

Passengers wait to board trains ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, at Nanjing Railway Station

Passengers wait to board trains at Nanjing Railway Station ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year

People wait to board trains on the last day of Chinese Lunar New Year holidays at a railway station in Lianyungang.

People wait to board trains on the last day of Chinese Lunar New Year holidays at a railway station in Lianyungang

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