Whether it takes two days of queuing up, using a mannequin to keep your place in line, or stripping naked in the middle of the train station to protest the wait, the Chinese are determined to get home. A record 230 million people, almost seven times Canada’s population, were expected to board trains, buses and airplanes during the two weeks before the Chinese New Year, which this year falls on Feb. 3—a total of 2.85 billion trips over a 40-day period. It is the world’s largest annual human migration, and a yearly odyssey for people trying to reunite with their families for what is China’s most important festivity.
Scenes of mayhem included people waiting hours for tickets in -10° C weather, police stopping a bus designed for 48 passengers packed with 68 and, tragically, another vehicle in northwestern China slipping on icy roads and plunging into a ravine, killing 11 and injuring 22. Still, for those who got a ticket, the mood was festive, even if the trip involved a 10-hour ride and no place to sit.