He and his wife, both migrant workers in Beijing, hoped to buy tickets that would take them more than 2,000 km (1,242 miles) home to the southwestern province of Sichuan to spend the annual Spring Festival with their parents and teenage kids.
On Monday, Qin managed to buy a train ticket for himself -- a standing-only ticket on a cramped train for more than 40 hours. It's been a year since the two of them have gone home.
"Standing is better than nothing," said Qin. "My wife isn't strong enough to stand for so long, so she'll stay behind and spend the holiday alone."
As hundreds of millions of Chinese travel home for the annual holiday as part of the world's biggest migration, it's also a struggle to buy train tickets home.
To ease people's woes, the central government this year launched a new online ticketing system to curb long lines at stations and prevent scalpers from selling them in the black market.
To incentivize online buyers, the railway ministry increased the number of train seats available through the Internet and ticket hotlines.
But the new system has caused more grief than relief.
Not only does the site crash on a regular basis, but most elderly and migrant workers -- those who often struggle to buy tickets to begin with -- find the system discriminatory, according to travelers at the Beijing station.
"It's not really fair. Most migrant workers don't know how to go online and the ticket hotline is always busy. So all we can do is come here and wait in line," said Qin, who works as a laborer in Beijing. "Maybe the railway ministry can find an easier way or a solution for migrant workers to get tickets during during the New Year."
Fueled by anger from low wages, inadequate labor conditions, a lack of access to education, health care and basic resources, migrant workers have become increasingly vocal about an ever-widening rural-urban wealth gap.
Some have even written letters to complain.
Huang Qinghong, a Wenzhou-based driver in eastern China's Zhejiang province, was rewarded by the railway ministry for his anger.
After writing an open letter to complain that the online system gave the poor less of a chance to buy tickets because they were Internet-illiterate and didn't have access to computers, Huang was given free airline tickets for his Spring festival journey to his hometown of Chonqging.
Others like Qin, who only holds a primary school education, haven't been so lucky.
"Sometimes, wealthier people have connections who can buy them tickets or computers at home, so they can go online," said Qin. "We could always buy plane tickets, but it's a financial sacrifice for migrant workers and not so realistic."
China's rail system is expected to handle 5.9 million trips a day through February 16. It's a mighty crowd that will only grow as the country's urban population is expected to reach nearly 70% over the next 20 years.
Although it is still far from perfect, China's railway officials have pledged to revamp its train ticketing system to meet the country's growing needs. In an effort to reduce the daily volume, travelers are only allowed to purchase tickets 12 days before their travel date.
But still, the online ticketing system hit 1.66 million in daily transactions during its peak period in January, surging well above its designed capacity of 1 million, the official Xinhua news agency reported last week.
A total of more than 3 billion trips are expected to be made during the 40-day Spring Festival travel period, with about 5.9 million trips expected to be made daily by rail through February 16.
For some, traveling -- even if it means standing 40 hours straight and being with family members during the most important holiday of the year -- is priceless.
"As migrant workers, we are always away from our children, so it's as if we are strangers when we go home," said Qin. "In person, we don't even converse that much because they have nothing to say to us so I wish I can spend more time with them."
I hope the situation for that large numbers of the migrant workers in China will be improved. Maybe, the city structures in China need to be changed, maybe??
Hope they all have a happy holiday, but the CCP, well thats another story. They've been around for too long now, it's time for a new China, a free China without the CCP!
So many people migrate in 10 days Spring Festival. The number reachs to more than 3 billions. It is a challenge to any goverment of the world. I sympathy with my fellows especially the migrant workers. I hipe we can change our idea to gather together at Spring Festival. We can spend the holidays in other towns.
That's common in populous countries like in India or China during holiday sessions. However, I feel India is a step ahead in terms of online booking systems. In fact, IT giant TCS developed Indian railway booking system in 1988.
Two months ago I took the new Beijing-Shanghai high speed bullet train. Bought the tickets at the ultramodern Beijing South station one hour prior to departure for approx USD 75. The train cruised at over 300 kmh and we got to Shanghai in under five hours. China can be such a land of contrasts.
Its very S.T.U.P.I.D thing to do by the Chinese government since migrant workers do not know how to use neither have access to the internet. Stupidity doesn't go far enough...
WOW!!!!!!! CNN has really become China's lapdog! The amount of censorship going on in this comment section is amazing.
Maybe CNN wants enlightened discussion amongst people rather than just trolls who have a sick obsession for deriding the Chinese people and issues relating to China.
the chinese lunar new year is just no joy, only painful mess ( including the business there, as all have to shut down for almost 2 weeks) and doom chilly days.
they should not blame on the government, it is caused by their own outdated culture, it really need "CHANGE".
What does culture have to do with transportation difficulties? Is celebrating a national holiday considered an outdated practice? If so why celebrate Christmas or Easter or New year's? Btw, what 'CHANGE' do you propose?
As a tourist I once experienced traveling during the spring festival. It was a big mistake I will never repeat. So many people queing, pushing and shoving. The trains were full standing only and the restrooms spilled over at the stations. You hold your breath and get wearied and sick. It dawned on me this is what it means for a country that has a billion people
Google is going back to China I heard, just hand over the online ticket system and let them run.
It's a dilemma because the capacity of the transportation is designed for normal situation for profit. I think there is no company can move 0.3 billion people in one month. Building more railways is a waste in other 11 months and only gain maintaining cost, so China is focus on the speed of the trains other than extending its railway map.
And we complain about American transportation?
Most of us Americans are spoiled any want nothing short of instant gratification. To read such an article really opens ones eyes to the stuggles around the world.
Why does LionOfNarnia keep making racist comments towards all Chinese people? I really would like to know why you hate them so much. I hope that none of the Chinese people think that you represent American values or beliefs. I equally hope that you don't think you are doing anything other than persuading people to hate Americans because of your words. It is a fact that China is a growing power in the world. It is also a fact that China is slowly changing for the better. They even allow some forms of democracy on a small scale. Why is it that you only want to see the bad? Have they offended you? Has a single Chinese person ever hurt you personally? Was some crime committed against you by the Chinese government that you are unable to forgive? I really wish you would say something positive about anything. My wife is Taiwanese and my daughter is half Taiwanese (That is historically the same thing as being Chinese), so every comment that you make personally offends me, my wife and our lovely 18 month old daughter. Could you please stop spamming your racist comments here? I know that you won't, but I thought that I should try
Lion Of Narnia，你为什么不断发表对全体中国人民的种族主义言论？我真的想知道你为什么这么恨他们。我希望，不要有中国人认为你这种人代表着全体美国人民的价值观或信念。同样，我也希望，你不要觉得自己做了什么了不起的事，因为你的那些话只会让别人记恨美国人。
Let me first say this, lion and shadow snw and his cronies are NOT american. They pretend to be american and troll on anyone they dislike, in particular the Chinese because they feel inferior and threaten by them. As American, we see the chinese struggle as I do lots and regular business and travel to different parts of China regularly. As a southern gentlemen, as I would like to call myself, some of us see China as a threat, some see it as an opportunity, some see it as a reminder of our own struggles.
So don't worry about trolls like them, that's not how most educated Americans view China. Can't say for Fox news viewers but they're just not the norms. Think of it this way, they more we pay attention to you, they more important you are to us.
cobb781, the only thing I see China is slowly improving is that the people are getting smarter and smarter, they don't buy the CCP bulls..t anymore. Any other so called improvements of China you see are only for the very few, not 1.4 billion majority. Believe me, go there and live for a month, see if you can survive without being sick
I didn't say that China is a great country! I said that they are improving. I thought this was a touching story and there wasn't need to be racist. And if you google what I said you will see the small case that I was talking about.
cobb781, where do you get the idea of China is slowly changing for the better? Have you lived and worked in China like 1.4 billion Chinese do? What form of democracy have you seen in China? I guess you don't know the real truth of China. Let 1.4 billion people tell you if China is getting better. The CCP is still killing innocent Chinese people everyday. Did you know they just beat somebody to dead a few weeks ago because he was representing the small village to talk to the government?
Sorry, Taiwanese are not Chinese, the native Taiwanese at least, not those old people who immigrated. That said, welcome to being a rising power, where people will start hating you for whatever reason.
Maxed2DT： Don't let this bother you, there are some people in America that hate everybody. Most people ignore them and consider them as mentally challanged.
I'm pretty sure you can only buy tickets 10 days in advance. I have tried ,any times standing in long lines only to be told i have to come back the next day becauseim a a too early
I find it strange that people complain more about the ticketing than they do the actual trip. I've found the irritation of the ticket lines (as HORRIBLE as it is) is far less worse than the trip itself.
What they are not going to be writing a lot about, are the overbooked trains (both general trains and the fast trains). And do NOT let people tell you that they never overbook or sell 'no seat' tickets for fast trains... they do it all the time. (They just include the whole floor as one big "Seat".)
16、knightrises：I prefer Japanese.
canchi034 ：raw or deep fried?
watch..."Last Train Home" about the migration of chinese peasants during the spring festival...Its amazing documentary.....I was reminded again by this pic from the documentary
18、politixsuck ：FML 40 hours of standing on a train.
But isn't this a problem in every country? It looks bigger because China has the largest population. Even if you go to small country like Bhutan or Nepal, you will see people struggling for transportation tickets during major festivals. And basically there is no solution other than adding extra line...