It’s that time again, when a whole country goes from ON… to OFF. The Spring Festival Travel Season, or Chunyun (春运), which goes for 40 days is well underway having started Jan 16 and will finish Feb 24. Many people wont finish work until tomorrow leaving them little time to get home for the all important re-union dinner on new years eve. Most will get around 7 days off, which is a mix of official days off and days accrued from working extra days prior. Some people will take extended leave and some even stay in their hometown for the month.
Chinese philosophies, or if you like, doctrines, religions or cultural practices include Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Over thousands of years they have all played a major role in shaping Chinese culture, albeit sometimes falling in and out of favor with rulers over the centuries. Through an understanding of the different philosophies, even if only a brief look through the window, can only work towards helping to understand the nature and way of such a large society.
One page on a blog is never going to cover a subject so vast as three philosophies, or their role in Chinese history, but let this try to be an introduction for those who have no knowledge at all, a bit like the writer. Ever so briefly I will try to introduce the three philosophies, some of the main characters, a few interesting quotes and maybe some new understanding.
The Spring Festival is a fifteen day celebration where most Chinese people have at least seven days holiday, and within the festival is the beginning of the Chinese New Year. It’s a very special time for Chinese.
For my first year in China, my first Spring Festival began in Shenzhen where I witnessed the effects of the mass migration of workers back to their home cities (see:). Also in Shenzhen I was lucky enough to watch an unimaginable display as every city block was alight with fireworks, with a roof top view, for as far as the eye could see, all that could be seen was a sky filled with color.
Without a doubt the most important date on the Chinese calender – the Lunar New Year and the beginning of the Spring Festival. This year it falls on February 3. Most all workers will get 7 days off work and head home for celebrations and reunion with family.
More about the festival itself later, but the actual lead up to the beginning of the festival has to be, in terms of scale, one of the planets most staggering migrations. There’s over 1.3 billion people live here and they all want go home at the same time!
Chinese love their bicycles, ranging from the standard push bike through to home made three wheelers, they are absolutely everywhere. China has the largest fleet of bicycles in the world but as history tells the story the Chinese where quite slow to catch on to this thing with ‘two wheels connected by pipe’.
So the story goes, at the suggestion of the British, a Chinese diplomatic mission went to several western countries in the mid 1800’s and came home with reports of all kinds of wonders. From their translated reports after visiting France they wrote of a “cycling device” explaining that:
Chinese people love celebrating things, and not only there own traditional festivals but also western ones too, and Christmas especially. Here in Shenzhen all the retail shopping malls have grand decorations throughout including themed displays, large trees and big custom made models of Santa, reindeers and the like. Even smaller shops and markets are dressed up with tinsel and decorations.
Restaurants throughout the city also get into the festive spirit with many, particularly the popular buffets, putting on western style Christmas menus offering up roast turkey, hams and all the trimmings plus some.
For most people booking through travel agents this step will probably be handled by your travel agent but in my case and for many who step out there own journey its one of the things that you’ll have to take care of.
Fortunately its not to difficult. At the time of writing there are differing types of visas depending on whether you are travelling for business, working or just leisure or holidays. More info on: Chinese Visa Types.
For me, I just needed a tourist visa, or as they call it an L visa. Which was as simple as heading to the Consulate General of the Peoples Republic of China in Brisbane and filling out a fairly straightforward form and handing that over with my passport.