ACCORDING to International Calendar, the New Year starts on Jan 1st every year. The world, including Papua New Guinea passed the 2009 New Year Thursday 1st.
But Jan. 26th, 2009 is the first day of Chinese New Year, popularly known as Chinese Luner Year by people outside China.
Thus, this scribe wishes all people of Chinese nationality “Xin Nian Hao” (Happy New Year).
Chinese Luner New Year is one of the most important and celebrated events by Chinese in China and abroad.
In major towns and cities in PNG, the beats of gong drums and Dragon dances with fire crackers will be familiar.
Chinese New Year or Spring Festival or sometimes called the Luner New Year is one of the most important traditional Chinese holidays.
The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th.
Chinese New Year Eve is known as Chuxi, literally means “Year-pass Eve.”
Celebrated in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors, as well as cultures with whom the Chinese have had extensive interaction.
According to Chinese calendar, this year is the year of Ox. The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work.
This powerful sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things.
As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswearingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.
Ox people need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, and when they have set their mind on something it is hard for them to be convinced otherwise.
An Ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever they do, even without imagination.
These people speak little but are extremely intelligent. When necessary, they are articulate and eloquent.
People born under the influence of the Ox are kind, caring souls, logical, positive, filled with common sense and with their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable and stable nest for themselves and their families.
Strong-minded, stubborn, individualistic, the majority are highly intelligent individuals who don't take kindly to being told what to do.
The Ox works hard, patiently, and methodically, with original intelligence and reflective thought.
It is important to remember that the Ox people are sociable and relaxed when they feel secure, but occasionally a dark cloud looms over such people and they engage all the trials of the whole world and seek solutions for them.
The history of Chinese Luner Year is long, yet interesting.
But what impresses this scribe is the mass migration of people within China during this period.
They do not move in tens and hundreds, but in thousands and millions, depicting China as one of the highest migrating country within China.
The migration of migrant workers from major cities to their rural villages and towns for family reunion is an important moment.
For most, this is the only time in a year to visit their families.
China has learnt its lessons from last year’s chaotic travel rush out of its major industrial cities and has reportedly put in efforts to beef up security this Lunar New Year.
The disaster recovery management of the authorities was criticized as tens of thousands of passengers were left stranded at railway stations due to freak weather conditions last year.
The icy weather also managed to destroy power supply to whole cities for days and disrupted transportation that was essential to China’s food and trade.
This year, China faces the same challenge, with the number of travellers threatening to reach a record high.
The traffic administration bureau under the Ministry of Public Security reported that harsh weather conditions, such as snow and ice, have affected the south and resulted in the closure of certain roads to ensure public safety.
“We gained a lot of experience from last year’s freezing weather disaster,” said Xu Yahua, deputy director of road transport in China’s Transport Ministry.
According to the Ministry of Public Security, police and public security officials have been ordered to “fully prepare for responding to and handling freezing weather with icy rain and snow”.
Leaves and holidays have also been cancelled for all those involved in maintaining and controlling crowd security over this period that lasts from January 11 to February 19, a step deemed necessary in ensuring public safety.
The recent economic crunch, which left an estimated 10 million rural migrants jobless and discontented, intensifies the rush.
It is also a factor in making the journey back home start earlier than previous years.
Zheng Zizhen, a researcher with the Guangdong Chinese Academy of Social Sciences: “In previous years, when factories were busy with orders, workers could only go at a certain time and had to return by a certain time. Now, they are not restricted by work so the travel pattern has changed.”
The Lunar New Year is the only time where China’s 120 million migrant workers return to their hometown.
About 2.32 billion journeys are estimated to be made during this festive period, a 3.5 per cent increase from last year, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.
Of the 2.32 billion journeys, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) estimates 188 million commuters to make their way via trains, an 8 per cent increase from last year.
In Beijing West Railway Station alone, there were 130,000 departures made on January 1, 38,000 journeys more than its daily average, reported the station authority.
Another reason for the massive surge in commuters this season has to do with the timing of the festivities this year.
This places a greater amount of pressure on railways across China in terms of crowd control and public security.
College students, whose vacation also begins this month, will join the mass of migrant workers to make their way back to their hometown.
“Students and employees nationwide are heading for home for an early holiday, while migrant workers are also returning home earlier this year.
When most people are moving around at the same time, an earlier-than-usual travel rush is around the corner,” said MOR spokesman, Wang Yongping.
With transport safety as the MOR’s top concern, the ministry assured the public that railway departments are doing their best to ensure quality of maintenance and transport facilities for a smooth operation.
An emergency mechanism was also released by the MOR in case of severe weather such as snow storms and fog.
Wang also said that an additional 150 trains were put into daily operation.
This will bring the capacity of China’s railway system to 4.48 million passengers’ everyday, an increase of 180,000 from last year.
Besides adding trains, authorities have also stepped up security and opened more ticket booths at major stations to handle the increase in passenger flow.
Police have been mobilized to patrol stations where hundreds of thousands gather.
China’s social and political stability is also under threat during this festive season.
Public order has deteriorated because workers have become more frustrated as the country enters deeper into the economic slump.
This proves dangerous as crowds continue to gather at major train stations.
China’s officials are concerned about the tension among migrant workers resulted from the economic slump and have expressed that “stability is everything” during this peak season.
Liu Zhijun, Minister for Railways, who has been visiting the stations regularly to make sure that things were going smoothly, said, “it is important to have a safe and good order while providing quality service under efficient management”.
Liu also commented that China is looking to improve the situation by 2012.
Heavy snow storm last year 2008 that stopped many people to visit their family members will today have the chance to visit their homes.
One thing I find moving is the closeness that Chinese people have for their immediate family members.
It does not matter if one works in either Beijing or Shanghai, he/she must still travel the hectic 18 hours by train to spend the time with family members.
To most Chinese, seeing their family members and having time with them, sharing food and exchanging gifts during this important holiday is very important.
Even the Central Government realises the significance of family reunion and tries to make any transport means possible for millions of people moving across this vast landmass.
I am also looking forward to experience this peak travelling period on my way to Beijing Feb 1st.
Enquire at the local train ticketing office revealed that the slow train would take 18 hours from Changchun to Beijing and cost 70 Yuan (K27). This is very cheap compared to the short distance between Lae and Mt Hagen.
If I get the faster train then it would cost 240 Yuan (K92.) which is still cheap.
Frankly, I am little bit scared of travelling during this peak time but decided to give myself a challenge to face and experience what China is going through.
Perhaps, experiencing is better then being told.
In my next commentary, I might share the 18 hours travel experience with you. That’s if the purpose of visiting Beijing is not worth sharing.
Going through train stations that serve 200,000 passengers a day is interesting to share in my next commentary.
So stay blessed and“xin nian hao kuai le” …“Zhong guo peng you men”.