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Posted on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 6:14 a.m.

"The Train to my Home Town" shown by U of M Center for Chinese Studies

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Every year at Chinese New Year’s (also called the Spring Festival), 130 million Chinese migrant workers try to go home to see their families, their children, their homes. The difficulties of this mass migration are evident in the photos of the doughy man who stripped to his underwear in frustration last week when tickets to his hometown sold out instantly despite the fact that he was third in line and had spent the night at the railway station. The photos became an internet sensation in China, in no small part because of the gross indifference of the railway officer texting away and smoking a cigarette.

Maybe what he needed was a pair of Voltron boxer shorts: Form Blazing Sword!

The Train to my Home Town, a documentary film by Ai Xiaoming, reveals a darker side of Chinese New Year’s and will be shown by the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies on Saturday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. in Auditorium A, Angell Hall, 435 S. State St., Ann Arbor.

From the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies:

At the beginning of 2008, when Spring Festival was around the corner, the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway, the major traffic line that links South, Central and North China, was suddenly interrupted by a major snow storm and many trains on this line were forced to stop indefinitely. Eager to get home before the Eve of Spring Festival, thousands upon thousands of inland migrant workers congregated at Guangzhou Railway Station and waited for the trains bound for their home towns.

As a scholar and independent filmmaker, Ai Xiaoming is concerned with the needs of marginalized people. In order to record the scenes and stories that happened during the Spring Transportation, she went to Shenzhen, Shaoguan, Ruyuan, as well as villages in Jianli, Hubei Province and Yueyang, Hunan Province, to cover the stories of those travelers whose lives were interrupted and some forever changed by this event. The documentary presents the expectations of Guangdong's migrant workers, the families who were waiting for them, the ice-snow disaster relief efforts made by the government, and how the police and the migrant workers dealt with these hardships.

The film is in Mandarin with English subtitles.

Other films coming up in the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies Film Series can be found here.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is an editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is on the Advisory Board of American Citizens for Justice. She team-teaches "Asian Pacific American History and the Law" at University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at