A Surprisingly? Crowded Labor Day

Today is International Labor Day in China. An ancient holiday to celebrate spring’s arrival, now it is a national holiday in about 80 countries.  May 1 was originally picked by socialist and labor parties of the “Second International” meeting in Paris in 1889 to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago on May 4, 1886. The U.S. labor day in September was chosen to disassociate the American labor movement from international communism. So China, but not the U.S., celebrates May 1 to commemorate an event in American labor history.

Some images of workers, imaginary and real, we have seen recently:

CP poster at the Shanghai  Propaganda Poster Art Centre: "Strive to accelerate the achievement of agricultural mechanization"

Old Communist Party poster, captioned “strive to accelerate the achievement of agricultural mechanization,” on display at the marvelous Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre.

shanghai skyscraper workers

Workers commuting down a Shanghai skyscraper. In the background is the Pudong River, separating old and new Shanghai.

 

 

An inspector looks at 2014 World Cup scarves made in Zhejiang Province

An inspector checks 2014 World Cup scarves made in Linan, Zhejiang Province.

Accustomed to Labor Day marking the end not beginning of summer, we  find ourselves caught unawares. The alternative meaning of today in China for us is…crowds, even larger than normal, which is saying a lot. Here’s a bird’s eye view of boarding a subway in Beijing, and riding a bus in Hangzhou, not on holidays:

About 7:30 am at the Shuangjing stop, Line 10 of the Beijing subway system. I made it on this car, gently rammed in by people waiting behind me.  Whew.

About 7:30 am at the Shuangjing stop, Line 10 of the Beijing subway system. I made it on this car, gently rammed in by people waiting behind. Whew.

 

On our way to church on a Sunday morning. Pressed up against the windshield affords  a great view. Try to avoid getting grumpy.

About three-fifths of China’s 1.4 billion people live in cities; on May 1 and this weekend, passenger volume on urban buses, subways, and trains is particularly thick. Our great friend Kathleen, after a whirlwind six weeks’ visit, will leave us, and China, from Beijing on Monday. In our infinite wisdom in March we decided to take her there this weekend from Hangzhou – by way of buses, subways, and trains. Who in China knew  two months’ ago this is a busy weekend for workers getting a day off?

 

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