Standing by the Dujiang Weirs, a world heritage site in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, 53-year-old Zhang Heping took a deep breath. "I've been here for five days," he said. "And I feel 10 years younger."
It is the first time that Zhang has been on holiday. As a model worker, he always worked extra shifts while others were enjoying their holidays. However, this year he realized that taking days off is a basic right that he should exercise.
"My daughter persuaded me that I should learn how to enjoy life instead of always being on duty," Zhang was quoted by Xinhua as saying. "I think she's right."
It is the seventh year in a row that the Chinese Government has organized "Golden Week" holidays, which last for seven days, on National Day, May Day and Spring Festival. This has changed people's concept of holidays.
"With social developments and improving living standards, more and more Chinese think of holidays as one of their basic rights," said Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor at Peking University. "People always work for better lives so having rest and enjoying life are also desirable."
Zhu Tiezhi, a member of the editorial board of Qiushi Journal, shared the opinion. "In the past, devotion and selflessness were viewed as virtues," he said. "But today, more Chinese realize that their rights to have holidays are lawful."
Taking into account the weekly two-day holiday, Chinese people now have 114 days off every year. And the three "Golden Weeks" are no doubt most attractive because they provide plenty of time for rest and travel.
Since the National Day holiday of 1999, the levels of tourists and tourism revenue have soared. The May Day holiday this year saw 121 million tourists who spent 46.7 million yuan (US$5.7 million), up 332 percent and 231 percent respectively from the figures for the first "Golden Week" holiday.
However, behind this prosperous scene several problems have emerged, such as poor service, poor infrastructure, the excessive development of tourist resources, and frequent accidents.
Therefore, Chinese citizens may choose quieter holidays in the future.
A sample survey by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics on the eve of the National Day holiday showed that 78.1 per cent of respondents were staying at home during the week-long holiday, saying tourism destinations are now too crowded.
Other pastimes could now take over, such as going to a bookstore, libraries, lectures, gymnasiums or cinemas.
Faced with problems brought about by massive passenger numbers during the golden weeks, experts also suggest that a system of annual leave with pay should be more widely implemented.
"We're having days off while world trade is in its peak season," said Wang Huiyao, president of the WRSA Chamber of Commerce of China. "For most countries in the world, September to November is the busiest season. We've missed lots of opportunities.
"We should encourage more people to take annual leave and shorten the May Day and National Day holidays."
(China Daily October 8, 2005)