Back to Normalcy after a Rabbit Firestorm: Anatomy of a Capers Chūnyùn

Saturday, February 05, 2011

World-wide, Chinese New Year is celebrated by Spring Festival and Chūnyùn (春运), the greatest annual migration on earth. In 2008, the 1.3 billion Chinese took 2.2 billion train trips within the 40 day travel window. The celebrations include feasting, fireworks, dragons dancing in the streets, and time with family and friends. Apparently, also, they google the phrase Xin nian kuai le.

I know this last detail because over the past six weeks, this blog has been celebrating its fourth annual Capers Virtual Chūnyùn. I began seeing traffic pick up in mid December, helping to make that my most-visited month ever. Traffic continued steady through January and then spiked on Saturday the 29th. For the first time in the blog's six year history, page views topped 1,000. All by itself, Wednesday—Chinese New Year—brought 429. Five days into February, its totals now exceed all of January. Just four days this week, Monday through Thursday, out-performed the whole four month period, April to July.

Credit Google.

I'm assuming the vast majority of my traffic came from overseas Chinese. This past month, if Sweden’s nearly 13,000 Chinese expatriates went to and searched for Xin nian kuai le, they got 272 000 results, of which my 2008 New Year’s greeting was listed 2nd. The United Arab Emirate’s 180,000 Chinese found me 3rd, and sent me 29 hits. Also at 2nd, Singapore’s 3.6 million found me 300 times. Myanmar’s million-plus found my 2008 message 4th and December 2010 update 5th. They made 139 visits. The UK’s 400,000 Chinese clicked on me 111 times. None of my visitors clicked in from China itself, but there, “新年快乐”would be far likelier to get lost in the crowd than would Xin Nian Kuai Le in the Diaspora. That and 2010 saw Google and China tangle, with a reduction of Google’s presence.

When all these numbers began to develop, my first reaction was awe over the chance popularity of an almost-throw-away post from three years ago. It struck me as random and surreal. Then, as I studied the source locations, I was transported back forty years, to a time in my life before marriage into a Spanish-speaking family, nine years living in Colombia, and 20 years teaching recent immigrants from Mexico. My focus on Latin America and its immigrants had interrupted an earlier interest.

I mentioned in my recent post on Fred Korematsu Day that I took at class at Pasadena City College called Sociology of the Asian in America. I took it because, even in high school, I had an interest in immigration and the mixing of cultures. Over the course of completing a history major, whatever class I might be taking, I wrote about Asian immigration into the Western world. I wrote about Japanese in Mexico, Cuba, Peru, and Brazil, and especially, I wrote about the Chinese in Europe. During three quarters of independent study at UCLA, I wrote what I believe was the longest treatment of the Chinese in France that then existed in English (it has since been surpassed).

As blog hits came in from Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, and Sweden, I was once again looking at the Chinese in Europe, and a Diasphora that now includes places like Dubai and Nairobi (I showed up 4th at Google Kenya).

I’m not sure yet what conclusions to draw, but I find myself thinking again on this subject after many years away from it. I am also beginning to read When a Billion Chinese Jump, by Jonathan Watts. Stay tuned. My thoughts in this Year of the Rabbit may turn increasingly to China, and its Diasphora. Watts’ premise is that any race to stave off global warming and worldwide ecological disaster will be won or lost in mainland China. The same may be true in a wide variety of human activities. I am fortunate to have friends both inside and outside of China, and about two months of Chinese travel experience. That doesn’t rank me yet as an expert, but it gives me a place to start.

Happy Year of the Rabbit

Chūnyùn. On the Chinese Diasphora, and the Chinese in Europe.

Disclosure of Material Connection: The link above is an “affiliate link.” This means if someone clicks on the link and purchases the item, I will receive a commission. This has never happened yet, and would only be a pittance if it did. For this reason, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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