One in two billion – Joining the Chunyun

Cow on the highway, Guizhou

How much is the toll for the cow? © Jo James

Tomorrow, I’ll be joining the largest annual human migration on the planet as I travel to Guiyang in Guizhou. It is estimated that over two billion journeys will be made in the forty day period around Chinese New Year – and my own trip to and from Guizhou will account for a whole 0.0000001% of them. This is the Chunyun or ‘Spring Transport’ – hundreds of millions of people trying to return home in time for dinner with their family on February 9th, New Year’s Eve.

Although I’ve travelled all around China and lived in Beijing for three years, I’ve only spent Chinese New Year inside China twice. In 2002 I was in a village in rural Hunan eating chillies and setting off firecrackers, and in 2008 I was in Beijing watching the city drain of people as they left for their hometowns, and in every other year since 2007 I’ve escaped from the mainland as quickly as possible, basically to avoid the Chunyun. Time to head back into the fray…

The first part of my journey from Hong Kong to Guiyang ought to be straightforward (although the flight booked up weeks ago). My plans get a little hazy after that – and the potential for Chunyun-related disruption creeps alarmingly higher. I want to spend Chinese New Year in the village of Zhaoxing in south-east Guizhou. Zhaoxing is a Dong minority village, and I’ve been told that Chinese New Year is a particularly interesting time to visit. I’ve also been told that all I need to do is to get on a bus to Liping, get off at Luoxiang and walk a few kilometres to Zhaoxing. What can go wrong?

We’ll see – watch this space for further updates!

P.S. I was lucky enough to visit Zhaoxing twice last year. To see what the village looks like, have a look at the gallery below, and perhaps you’ll understand why I want to visit again:

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