The largest mass migration in human history will begin on Saturday, and people are gearing up:
People who get tickets are considered the lucky ones, because not everybody will. There simply aren’t enough trains. Last year, the government launched online purchasing and a real name registration system to try to make the things easier, but it did little help. The online purchasing system crashed several times after it launched and people say human beings aren’t fast enough to order a tickets through the system; once some seats become available, they are gone within fractions of a second, probably to computer algorithms set to buy the seats. On Weibo, many netizens also believe the system is modified to save tickets for staff, who can sell them later at a considerable markup.
For those that need to travel, the hard seats are among the easier tickets to get. Especially compared to the beds, which tend to sell out first. However, sitting on a hard seat for two hours is one thing; sitting on one for 24 hours in a well-lit train car is quite another. While people who haven’t got tickets yet are trying every which way to get one, people who are “lucky” enough to get hard seats have been busy buying Shen Qi, or “magic tools”, on Taobao to make their journey slightly more comfortable.
"Magic tools" include "anti-pervert shoes", adult nappies and a sort of portable sensory deprivation rig that looks like a foam diving helmet.
Something like four and a half times the population of the UK will be trying to get a train in China on the weekend. And a few weeks later, they'll all be coming back. It's a 21st century version of transhumance, though fortunately people won't be accompanied by flocks of goats.