History and Culture

Chinese around world prepare to ring in Lunar New Year

2018-02-13 13:32:00 (Beijing Time)         Xinhua

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OLD TRADITIONS, NEW TECHNOLOGY

Spring Festival customs vary across different regions, but some general changes have taken place in recent years.

First of all, China's high-speed trains have brought huge changes to the annual Spring Festival travel rush, known as the "Chunyun."

Hundreds of millions of people travel long distances to return home for family gatherings during the holiday. Journeys that previously took several days now take just hours.

Thanks to high-speed trains and expanded railway networks, the perceived distance between migrant workers and their hometowns has been reduced.

China's railway network is expected to exceed 175,000 km in length by 2025, compared with 127,000 km of operating tracks at the end of 2017. The country will have 38,000 km of high-speed rail tracks by 2025, from just 25,000 km at the end of 2017, according to China Railway Corporation.

The country's high-speed rail tracks accounted for 66.3 percent of the world total at the end of 2017.

Decades ago, it would take more than 24 hours to travel the 1,300 km from Beijing to Shanghai, now, it takes just four hours.

In 2018, the Spring Festival travel rush began on Feb. 1 and will last until March 12, with more than 390 million passengers expected to travel by rail.

Travelers can now buy train tickets online, rather than lining up for days in front of ticket windows at railway stations.

Due to the rapid development of the internet economy, China has become a leader in moving toward a "cashless society," which has also influenced some customs of the Spring Festival.

For instance, red envelopes containing money, known as hongbao in Chinese, should be given to family members and friends during the festival. However, there is now no need for physical envelopes, as one click on a mobile phone can immediately send one or any number of digital red envelopes to one person or group via mobile payment platforms.

A report released by Chinese internet giant Tencent said users of WeChat, its instant messaging app, send about 46 billion electronic red envelopes from the Eve through the first five days of 2017 Lunar New Year.

Meanwhile, Chinese tourists can shop overseas using their mobile phones as more shops and markets are providing access to Chinese online and mobile payment services such as WeChat Pay and Alipay. Travelers don't need to exchange foreign currency, as the payment platforms directly charge their accounts in Chinese RMB.

Chinese travellers can now also have their tax refunds sent to Chinese online and mobile payment platforms when they leave some countries.

Many families used to visit markets to stock up food supplies for the holiday. While many still continue the tradition, others now order food or ready-made meals online.

From pork, chicken, vegetables, to Boston lobster, Alaskan king crab, fruit from Southeast Asia, almost any food can be ordered online and delivered to your door.