A Beautiful Map of the World’s Largest Annual Human Migration

How It Works
Jan. 29 2014 11:48 AM

A Beautiful Map of the World’s Largest Annual Human Migration

chinamap

Via Baidu

Millions of Chinese are currently heading to their hometowns (yes, yes, mock away) for the Lunar New Year—the world’s largest annual human migration. Last year, a total of 3.4 billion trips were taken, 3.1 billion of them by road. In total, 35.5 million people traveled by air, 43 million by boat. To put that number in perspective, only a little more than 3 million people in total went on Hajj to Mecca in 2012.

Baidu, China’s largest search engine, created the stunning map above showing the migration for the 40-day festival. As Smart Planet describes it, the map was “created using data taken from users of its location-based applications to calculate and analyze the mass migration of the population during the Spring Festival. The map shows the travel routes and their popularity.” If you click into the interactive version, you can get data for specific cities (in Chinese only.)

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Presumably, the map even somewhat understates the scale of the migration, as—despite the site's popularity—large numbers of those heading home aren't logging into Baidu's products en route.

Despite its size, the migration may actually be getting smaller as larger numbers of Chiense workers live in cities and work in service jobs for companies that remain open during the festival. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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