They migrate to big cities to earn a living all year round, so the holiday trip for most migrant workers for a family reunion in the upcoming Lunar New Year is sweet and full of hope despite a lot of difficulties in getting a ticket.
Zhang Xiao is one of them. He cannot find words to describe his feeling as Spring Festival approaches.
The 28-year-old from Guizhou Province in southwest China is eager to see his wife and their 21-month-old son, as this is the first time that he has returned home since he migrated to Beijing to work for a construction company several days after last year's Spring Festival.
"The feeling becomes increasingly strong as the festival approaches," Zhang said.
After 7-odd-hours queuing in the bitter cold at Beijing Railway Station last week, he finally got a ticket, which is a difficult task for most Chinese during the peak period.
With luggage packaged in three big bags, which includes new clothes he bought for his wife and food and toys for his son, Zhang boarded the train bound for his hometown yesterday. "Anyway, I'm going home to spend the festival with my family," he said, smiling.
"My family are expecting my return," he added.
After almost one year of hard work, he earned around 7,000 yuan (US$863) minus daily expenses on meals and travels, which, Zhang said, is enough to support his family in the mountainous countryside.
"My hometown is very poor and most of the young male villagers go to big cities for work all year round to earn a living for their families," Zhang said.
"So the short period during Spring Festival is very valuable for us to reunite with families," he added.
According to Zhang, he has to go back to his worksite in the outskirts of Beijing before the end of next month.
"To be honest with you, I'm very envious of the city dwellers' life. They have a decent job and can entertain themselves as they wish after work," he said. "I hope my son can lead such a life."
Thousands of migrant workers like Zhang are joining the massive movement of people. They crowd the railway stations, either to take the trip home or to queue for a ticket.
According to the Ministry of Railways, around 144 million journeys will be made by rail during the festival period from January 14 to February 29.
(China Daily January 23, 2006)