Passengers make their way with bags to the entrance to Beijing railway station in the Chinese capital on January 21, 2019, as people begin to head for their hometowns ahead of the Lunar New Year in early February. The world's largest annual migration began on January 21 in China with tens of thousands in the capital boarding trains to journey home for Lunar New Year celebrations. (AFP/Wang Zhao)
Millions of Chinese have begun the annual exodus for the Lunar New Year, the world's largest annual human migration, leaving major cities to return to their hometowns for the holiday.
The most important holiday in the Chinese calendar places great emphasis on family reunions, and travellers must get home by Monday to usher in the Year of the Pig the following day.
At Beijing Railway Station early on Wednesday, thousands were milling around in the cold, wrapped up in thick coats and wheeling their luggage.
They included a group of children with brightly colored bags emblazoned with cartoon characters, a stark contrast to the dark, wintry morning.
Readying for a 32-hour journey from Beijing to Huaihua in Hunan province, central China, passengers kept themselves entertained on mobile phones while sipping tea from flasks.
Many who bought standing-only tickets were perched on their luggage along the aisle, or on tiny foldable stools sold on the Beijing platform. Others dozed in their cramped seats.
In the sleeper cabins there was a buzz in the air, with families chatting and sharing food and children playing along the corridors.
Rail operators expect some 413 million trips during this year's holiday season, up 8.3 percent from a year ago, the official Xinhua news agency reported.