Chinese people are known as big savers, but the lunar new year, also known as the spring festival, is the one time of year when even farmers must splurge. Think of it as a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The festival began on Friday and ends on Wednesday. Last year, Chinese people spent $122 billion during the weeklong holiday, and they’re expected to spend even more this year. What are Chinese people buying? Marketplace caught up with people at Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station before they rushed back to their hometowns.
Name: Liu Xiaowen
Hometown: Southeastern province of Fujian
Distance from Shanghai: Four hours on a high-speed train
Occupation/industry: Street vendor selling snacks
Gifts: Cash (lucky money) and 30 to 40 pounds of pig hearts (good in stews and stir fries)
Amount he spends: 8,000 – 9,000 yuan ($1,260 – $1,410)
“I’m bringing back three containers full of pig’s heart because it’s three times cheaper than in my hometown. I’ll pass some of it to friends and family.”
Name: Zuo Xiaofeng, 29, his daughter, niece and mother, Li Xiuzhi, 50
Hometown: Central Hubei province
Distance from Shanghai: Five hours on a high-speed train
Occupation/industry: Software developer
Gifts: Food, clothes and baijiu (a fiery grain alcohol)
Amount they spend: 20,000 to 30,000 yuan ($3,150 to $4,720)
“In the past, I would bring back food specialties from this region, but this year we are taking two babies, so I haven’t brought anything with us,” Zuo Xiaofeng said.
His mother, Li Xiuzhi, says many things can be bought online and delivered to their village anyway.
“I may buy some clothes for my granddaughters, but they won’t be expensive. It’s not about spending lots of money. The most important thing for me is to see my parents and relatives and friends who I haven’t seen for a year,” Li said.
Name: Zhang Huanzhu
Hometown: Southeastern Jiangxi province.
Distance from Shanghai: Two hours on a high-speed train
Occupation/industry: Construction worker
Gifts: Food, clothes, cash for his elder relatives and young children.
Amount he spends: at least one month’s salary or a few thousand yuan (a few hundred dollars)
A surprising hit with people from the countryside during the season: empty plastic buckets.
“I’ve brought three plastic buckets to use at home. I took them from my work site. They were going to throw them away. These buckets are handy in the village. You can fill them with water and store things,” said Huanzhu.
They can also double as a sturdy seat while waiting for the train.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.