Holidays are meant as a time for the reunification of families, when children return to the folds of the home from whence they left to pursue their own lives and dreams. However, due to long distances and financial burdens, many people found it simply impossible to return home this year, creating thousands of “empty nests” (空巢, kōngcháo) across China. In the pictures above, one photographer for Xinhua News traveled around Shaanxi (陕西) Province and documented the impact urbanization has had on rural families whose chairs and homes remain empty over a holiday season meant to celebrate the family.
In the photos, it’s not only children who are missing, but also husbands and wives who have been forced into the cities in order to make a living wage. If the numerous empty chairs aren’t enough to tug at your heart-strings, the looks on their faces as they sit in the empty fields should be.
The problem of Mid-Autumn Festival loneliness is not only relegated to migrant workers, but also educated employees and students living in large cities like Shanghai, Chongqing and Beijing. In an online poll conducted at sina.com.cn, 30 percent of respondents said they were not able to return home, and in a separate poll conducted on zhaopin.com more than half of 4,881 respondents said that they were not able to return home.
“There isn’t enough time for me to go back to my home in Yongzhou in Hunan Province”
“I haven’t been back for Mid-Autumn Festival in 11 years. Yes, this festival is important, but I think we already have enough holidays in a year. Young people need time to work”
An estimated 230 million Chinese as of 2010 have left the countryside and gone to cities to work. The number is expected to reach 250 million by 2012.