Parents visit children in city

Updated: 2012-01-20 08:07

By Wu Yiyao (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - Ma Yue, 54, arrived at Shanghai Railway Station at 5 am on Wednesday after spending 24 hours on the train that carried her to an annual reunion with her son.

This has been Ma's third time to travel from Northwest China's Gansu province to the eastern metropolis of Shanghai during Spring Festival.

The traditional Chinese concept of filial piety requires kids to visit their parents on important days, especially during the Spring Festival, a time for family reunion.

However, the trend may be reversing. Increasing numbers of young people who work away from their hometowns complain of having no days off during the Spring Festival, or they fail to obtain tickets for a journey home. Now more parents are going against convention by returning to see their children.

Ma's son, an animation specialist, has to work during the Spring Festival, so Ma has to travel alone from the railway station to her son's apartment in Pudong, carrying two packs on her back containing gifts for her son who "works so hard and has no time to go home".

Ma said she hopes she can take care of her son and daughter-in-law during the festival.

Train tickets from Shanghai to Hunan, Guizhou, Hubei, Anhui and Henan are in short supply before the Spring Festival, and tickets for trains from these provinces to Shanghai after the Spring Festival are also in large demand because people need to come back for work after the holiday, said Li Fang, a train ticket agent in Huangpu district.

On the other hand, trips in the reverse direction are much easier and less costly.

"I took a flight from Changsha to Shanghai on Jan 16 and then a train to Suzhou that cost me only 400 yuan ($63) in total, while a flight from Shanghai to Changsha costs up to 1,000 yuan," said Shi Li, a 47-year-old woman from Zhuzhou, Hunan province.

Shi is going to visit her 22-year-old daughter who works in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.

"Visiting my daughter exposes me to her world, and I realize how hard young people are struggling to establish their own lives far from their hometowns. I wish I could stay longer this year to take care of her," she said.

Traveling parents said the trips can be a challenge because carrying bulky luggage, most of which is made up of gifts for the children, is not easy.

Navigating the huge train stations can also be frustrating, said Xiao Quanlin, a 62-year-old man from Wuhan, Hubei province.

"It has been 10 years since my last visit to Shanghai, and I also lost my way in the vast train station here," Xiao said.

He has worries about the reunion with his son and daughter-in-law, too.

"Of course I would feel better if my son visits me. I feel like a guest when I pay a visit to his family, and I worry that they might not like the gifts I bring them," Xiao said.

Parents visiting children is a trend that goes along with today's reality, said Zhang Liang, a professor at the family research center under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"A family reunion provides good opportunities for communication between the two generations," Zhang said. "Although parents may feel like guests to their children's families upon arrival, the feeling will fade away soon and even disappear after frequent visits."

Traditional ideas of filial love, which requires unconditional obedience to parents, may not fit into today's social realities, and parents' visits may enhance equality among family members and boost mutual understanding between parents and kids, especially when they do not live together for the majority of the year, Zhang said.

China Daily