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It's a yearly affair where more than 200 million Chinese travel home to their various provinces in mainland China by plane, sea, train, road or on foot, to make sure they are present for the Chinese Lunar New Year family dinner.
It is a huge exodus. Some news media call it the largest human migration ever that happens yearly in a country of 1.412 billion people.
There are many reasons why they leave their hometown. Many of them leave to work in the city while some go away as students to study in another province or country. Then there are those who travel far and wide for their own personal reason. Some love to travel and explore the world while others have businesses abroad. But most of them come home for their new year family gathering.
Similarly in Malaysia and Singapore. There's a mini-exodus here when Malaysians working on our island return to their homeland and vice-versa. Buses, taxis, cars, motorcycles, trucks fill the Johore Causeway days before Chinese New Year, resulting in huge jams and heavy traffic.
I heard this song when I was eating in a Chinese restaurant alone in Winnipeg Canada in the 80's. The music came from the owner's kitchen. The old gentleman came out and explained to me in perfect English what it meant. It's another form of migration, to another country but, never going back home. Which was what he and his family did.
Somehow the haunting melody connected, especially when I was sitting by myself in that empty restaurant (it was cold Winter and no student could afford meals in these places). I was giving myself a treat when the song came on and the thought of being a refugee never came to mind. It was the first time I heard it and I was thousands of miles away from home...