The largest annual migration on Earth is happening for Lunar New Year -- these incredible photos show what the journey is like

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Lunar New Year has begun!

Around the world, about 1.5 billion people – that’s nearly one-fifth of the population – will celebrate two weeks of festivities that begin on Friday for Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. In China alone, hundreds of millions of people who spend most of the year living in cities travel home to spend time with loved ones.

Together, they will make about 3 billion trips in a little over a month. It is the largest annual human migration.

Here’s what it has looked like so far this year.


Hundreds of millions of people in China will travel home to see family and celebrate the Lunar New Year.

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Nearly 3 billion trips will be made between February 1 and March 12, according to estimates.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Source: Xinhua


During this period, some people will travel back to their family’s homes by car. But others will fly — China plans to schedule more than 30,000 additional flights.

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But travelling by train remains popular. More than 390 million people will travel by rail this holiday period.

Wang He/Getty Images

Source: Xinhua,Bloomberg


Not all trips, however, will be fast. These travellers on a 26-hour train trip from Beijing to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

There aren’t enough seats for everyone, so some people have to stand for the journey.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

But services and food options have improved over the years. This year, some travellers will be able to order fast food like KFC online, and train attendants will deliver it to their seat.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Source: Global Times


Some lucky people can sleep in cabins.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

But many sleep in their seats — ¬†or, like these men, in the restaurant car.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Others get some shut-eye at stations while they wait for connecting trains.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Temperatures in some parts of China have dropped below freezing, meaning travellers — particularly little ones — need to wrap up.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Travellers can have a lot of luggage, sometimes including traditional gifts and foods available only during the Spring Festival.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Though fireworks are also popular, Beijing banned their use in the city center this year in an effort to reduce air pollution and injuries.

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This traveller was injured but found a train conductor willing to carry him.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Some of the queues are long.

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Part of the reason for the mass migration is that millions of people who moved away from their villages to earn more money are returning home.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

However, China’s hukou system restricts the number of urban residency permits the government provides to migrant workers each year.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Source: The Diplomat


Many rural migrants in urban areas don’t have the same access to health, education or social services. Millions of children are left back home with their grandparents to attend school.

Tao Zhang/Getty Images

Source: The Guardian


And it’s likely that some migrant workers in Beijing won’t be able to return at the end of the holidays.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Since November, Beijing has evicted tens of thousands of residents, many of them migrant workers, and destroyed homes. In some cases, people were given no warning.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, CNN


While China has said the evictions are part of a safety campaign following a fire, many have decried them, and some see them as a plan to cut the population of six districts by about 2 million people by 2020.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Source: The Guardian, China Daily


But for now, many people in China and elsewhere will enjoy meals and celebrations with their loved ones over the holidays.

Feature China / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

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