300k Beijing Workers Commute from Neighboring Yanjiao Every Day

Hebei province Yanjiao city.
Hebei province Yanjiao city.
For migrant workers in Beijing who cannot afford a home, they fulfill their dream of owning a home by settling down 35km away from Beijing’s East Third Ring Road in Yanjiao [in neighboring Heibei province].

From NetEase:

300,000 People Commute Between Beijing and Hebei Yanjiao: “Chun Yun” Everyday, People Squeezed Until They’re Like a Picture

Cross province commute, “people squeezed until they’re like a picture [squeezed flat]”

“It really was a very difficult time, but we could do nothing but grit our teeth and hang in there, because we had no other option.”

February 28th, 33-year-old Liu Xiaomin started her story with this sentence. In 2004, she and her husband, Song Bei graduated from Heibei Medical University. After graduation, the couple worked in a county-level hospital in Baoding for two years. Life was calm but dull. Finally, Song Bei couldn’t put up with the slow pace and repetitive life in a small town any more. By then, they already had a child. Wang Xiaomin told her husband: “You go to graduate school. I will stay at home to take of the child. When you settle down, I will bring our child to join you.”

Song Bei successfully got into a medical college in Beijing to pursue a master’s degree, and three years later, he wanted to work in the hospital attached to/associated with the college, but that didn’t happen. Coincidentally, a large private hospital that was recently established in Yanjiao came to the school for recruiting, and offered good pay and conditions. Song was not familiar with Yanjiao. All he had heard was that a lot of migrant workers who can’t afford houses in Beijing have purchased houses there, commuting back and forth everyday. One weekend, Song Bei made a trip to Yanjiao to look around. After taking the Route 930 bus and getting off at “Yanjiao Distillery”, he was astounded by what he saw. Luxurious real estate offices filled both sides of National Highway 102 with the streets littered with [real estate] leaflets and nothing else, all for housing projects. He grabbed a taxi and the base fare was only 5 kuai, far cheaper than that in Beijing. Going around town, he saw that it was bustling and prospering, far more than the county seat that was his own hometown. Returning to his school, he decided to sign the contract with that large hospital, and came to Yanjiao to work.

…for over a year, from Monday to Friday, she wasn’t able to see her kid awake…

Soon after, Liu Xiaomin left Baoding and came to Yanjiao, but here she wasn’t able to find work quickly and ended up signing a contract with a hospital in Beijing’s Changping district. And so her nightmarish life began— That hospital required her to come in to work before 8am everyday. ”I had to get up at 5am every day, get dressed, and arrive in front of Fucheng 5th Development to catch the Route 814 public bus. Only after bouncing and swaying [on the bus] for about 40 minutes do I arrive at Guomao [in Beijing]. At Guomao, I transfer to the public bus to the hospital, which is another 40-plus minute ride. Just about everyday I might be late, and if I’m late, I’m penalized [deduction of pay].” Liu said that for over a year, from Monday to Friday, she wasn’t able to see her kid awake, because it would be nearly 9pm when she got home every evening by which time her child was already asleep, while when she wakes up in the morning, her child would still be sound asleep.

Fucheng Fifth Development is a large residential area in Yanjiao, with most residents being among the migrant worker “tribe” who have flocked to Beijing for work. Every morning around 6am is the busiest time for commuters. The queue at the bus stop often goes as long as over 200 meters. Some parents have followed their [adult, working age] children to Yanjiao. In order to let their children sleep just a bit longer, they often come out of their homes to the bus stop and line up for their children, calling their children to hurry and come down only when the bus is about to arrive. Even though there’s a queue, it still gets rather chaotic when people get on the bus. Only when the bus is packed to the brim does it leave. A classic local expression is: people are squeezed until they’re like a picture [squeezed so flat they become 2 dimensional]. Therefore, local residents are not astounded at all when seeing scenes of people during the Spring Festival “Chun Yun” travel season scrambling to get on trains, even climbing in through train windows, because this kind of Chun Yun circus plays out everyday in Yanjiao.

After getting on the bus, passengers who got a seat will take the opportunity to sleep. Those who don’t have a seat can also lean on each other and doze for a bit. Liu says, in winter, the bus is like any train car traveling overnight during Chun Yun, and not at all like what one would imagine a public bus to be like.

…you are not only unable to move freely, you can’t even breathe or think freely.

These migrant workers who have to commute into another province spend a significant amount of time on the bus everyday. “It doesn’t matter if you are a young and attractive white collar worker or a laborer moving bricks at a construction site, everyone is squeezed together [on the same bus], where you are not only unable to move freely, you can’t even breathe or think freely. The overcrowded bus numbs your emotions as well as freezes time. Sometimes, I too ask myself why I gave up my simple life earning 2000 kuai in a small town and insisted on coming here to suffer like this,” said Liu. A lot of people in Yanjiao have probably asked themselves the same question, but only very few of them have actually ran back to their hometowns. “For us doctors, Beijing has patients from all over the country, the best doctors, and the opportunities to learn and practice are too many. But, I am still not sure if I am living here for my dreams or if its just due to inertia.“

Other than public buses, the transportation choices of many others

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Although the public bus is cheap, it’s slow and getting a seat isn’t that easy, requiring both time and stamina. Therefore, people in Yanjiao have started carpooling to survive. Carpooling is popular in many cities in China, but there probably aren’t many places where the carpooling market is as large as it is in Yanjiao. Advertisements for carpooling can be seen on all sorts of classifieds websites or QQ groups. “Meet at Fucheng Fifth Development west entrance, 6:30. Destination: Guomao. 10 yuan per person”. The virtual but ever present internet has become the most important place for Yanjiao people everywhere to connect with each other. Traveling from Yanjiao to Guomao, there are two toll stations on the way. The highway toll is 15 yuan total. The journey itself is about 30 km long. The direct cost for one roundtrip is 40 yuan which, for a private car owner, is definitely not a small expense. Carpooling therefore has become an important way for them to lower the costs of owing a car that also allows them to make friends. “I definitely think carpool is a good idea. It’s much more comfortable and faster than buses. Also, I don’t have to get up so early in the morning so I can sleep that much longer.” ZAKER from Qiqihar told this reporter that every morning at 7:10, he meets his friends at the bus stop on the north side of National Highway 102. Just being able to sleep an extra half an hour has immediately increased his happiness index quite a bit.

Just being able to sleep an extra half an hour has immediately increased his happiness index quite a bit.

On March 1st, this reporter met with commuters who are carpooling. After getting in the car, the driver immediately handed this reporter a business card: “This is my name. If the traffic police stop us, tell them we are friends.” Turns out some carpoolers were stopped for “illegal operation” [as a “black taxi”] by Beijing traffic police in Beijing a while back. Since then, everyone has learned to immediately introduce their names with each other in the car so [when there’s a traffic check] everybody will be on the same page.

During rush hour, apart from public buses and carpooling, there’s yet another travel option for commuters: privately-operated buses. These large passenger buses charge 8 yuan per person, far more pricy than the public bus. Still, when commuters can’t squeeze onto public buses, they will resort to such a transportation option.

Regardless of whether it is the public bus, carpooling, or even “black taxis”, most passengers get off at Guomao, the business center in Beijing, where the headquarters of many companies are concentrated. At the same time, many public bus lines and subways converge here. Commuters from Yanjiao here scatter into various office buildings or embark on the second part of their journey towards various corners of Beijing.

These days, the jobs of Yanjiao residents are no longer limited to the east of Beijing, as there are quite a few residents whose jobs are located in the west of Beijing. Just this month, a privately-operated shuttle bus from Yanjiao to Xizhimen [in west Beijing] was launched specifically to meet the needs of this group of people. A direct route to Xizhimen makes getting to Zhongguancun much more convenient, requiring only one transfer. It seems northwest Beijing residents plagued by high housing prices may also be turning their eyes towards Yanjiao to buy real estate.

Still, when commuters can’t squeeze onto public buses, they will resort to such a transportation option.

For those who buying homes in Yanjiao, many will factor in how convenient it is to get to National Highway 102, the reason being that highway leads to Tongyan highway and this is the only route to go to Beijing for most Yanjiao residents. As a result, the Chaobai River east side of Yanshun Road is extremely congested every morning and evening.

Early in Yanjiao’s development, most real estate projects were situated to the north of National Highway 102, since the south was cut off by railway line. However, as more and more underpasses are opened, this is no longer a problem. Now, the local government is putting great efforts into developing the south of the city. Investors like Hebei Tourism Investment Group and China National Travel Service (HK) Group Corporation are pouring huge amounts of capital into lands that are still currently growing wheat but will be developed for tourism.

These huge investments are made on the premise that Beijing will be focusing on developing Tongzhou New City in the east, and the accelerated construction of the the eastern road network. It’s reported that apart from the National Highway 102 bridge spanning Chaobai River, Yanjiao connecting construction projects such as four more bridges also crossing the Chaobai River as well as the M6 line metro, and high-speed railway lines S3 and S5 are waiting to be launched, with some of them already having made tangible progress.

From public buses to carpools, and then to subways, the roads from Yanjiao to Beijing are increasing in variety and convenience.


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Comments from NetEase:


Fucking just what the purpose of life [what exactly is one suffering this for]?

荷大壮 [网易云南省昆明市网友]: (responding to above)

To dream…

ooo圆来如此 [网易山东省滨州市网友]:

There’s some bullshit here!

Going to Yanjiao to breath the smog for 2000 [RMB] a month! I live in one of the poorest parts of Shandong province and the average salary for a nurse is 2000 and above [per month]. Although it’s a bit poor here, there’s little pressure, good air, and low housing prices.

With well-developed logistics and widespread internet, what’s the problem with living in a smaller city?

I’ve been to Yanjiao that place. To be honest, I didn’t like it at all. That kind of miserable overcrowded life is so hopeless.

Don’t tell me it’s about dreams and what’s ideal, all I want is a real and tranquil life! Being far away from crowds, breathing fresh air, being able to spend the weekends going out with my wife and kids, or going home to see my parents.

Is Beijing so good?

Entering the “imperial city” is like jumping into the sea, where your parents become strangers!

Those people working hard to make a life in Beijing, do you have time to go home? Do you have the means to have your parents stay with you?

What’s the purpose of life?

用铁铲修你脸 [网易北京市网友]:

Tian Tong Yuan and Yanjiao have the most commuters every day and therefore are the most difficult places to commute from in Beijing. Of course, Yanjiao is technically part of Heibei, and thus cannot be considered Beijing, but Tian Tong Yuan at where Beijing’s Chaoyang district and Changping district meet is definitely one of the most difficult places to commute from. It’s indeed the time to expand the transportation infrastructure connecting Tian Tong Yuan to the outside.

Itqlg [网易湖南省长沙市网友]:

Lao Wang starts raising pigs. He has 10 pens. But he’s a bad habit in that he only feeds pen no. 2, 5 and 8. For the rest of the pens, he doesn’t always feed them. Therefore, pen no. 2, 5 and 8 are overcrowded with pigs. People ask him why. He said slowly that because those pens are the nearest, and he’s too lazy to go far!!!

  • Aorigele


    • YourSupremeCommander

      Sofa King what?

  • Insomnicide

    Urban areas are too densely concentrated.


    The Chinese dream…to die from a stress related heart attack….is glorious

    • Marcus Black

      The American dream…to live in blatant denial thinking that one day I will be rich even though everything suggests there is no American dream for 99.9999% of Americans. Then again what more do you expect from a country famous for fake “Hey!, how are you!” in an highly irritating nasal voice. Makes me want to bitch slap the sound out of that person. At least in England we are forward about being in a bad mood (mostly caused by the shitty weather).

      I pick the Chinese dream any day because at least the women are nice and slim all the time. Unlike the American women who transform into hippos in their mid to late 20’s. At that time you can’t do anything because she can quickly turn your “American Dream” into a nightmare if you ever step out of line.

      • The FRED FONG

        that hope and change thingy….did you fall for that one?

      • Mighty曹

        “Hey, how the fuck are you!?”

      • Ronbo11c

        Dam this is sooooo spot on especially the Hippo part…would trade my life in China for one in the states ever….

        Peace from Beijing

      • nickhz

        why do you always have to make things about the U.S? this has nothing to do with the U.S.A. so petty.

      • Surfeit


  • lacompacida

    As long as these commutes count towards local consumption of GDP, it is working as planned. The government wants to increase local consumption anyway.

  • DD Bear

    test comment!

    • YourSupremeCommander

      you pass!

  • mr.wiener

    The long march…to work

    • Free Man

      For a few renminbi more

  • Joe

    During the weekends you also see fleets of black audis going to yanjiao to visit saunas

    • Insomnicide

      1. Move some hospitals to Yanjiao.
      2. Move some saunas to Beijing.
      3. ????
      4. Profit!

      • Markoff

        how do you move hot springs from north and east of Beijing to Beijing?

        • Insomnicide

          Artificial hotsprings…maybe…

  • Dr NO


  • Joe

    not if your commute look like this

    • Markoff

      oh mighty Xierqi, thankfully it’s past now with Zhuxinzhuang interchange two stops earlier

      • Joe

        Tiantongyuanbei is still pretty bad tho

    • YourSupremeCommander

      HOLY FUCK!!! You couldn’t pay me to stand on the edge like that. I rather be late than dead.

      • cantonizi

        Lucky me, my govt pays me to stay home so I don’t have to do this shit going out to make a living every fuqking day, I love my govt. Check.
        China has no human rights for workers, that’s no lie.

    • Nilerafter24

      Fucking Xierqi …… It’s as bad as Dongzhimen during rush hours

      … I hate that line 13/ Changping crossover …. Thank goodness Im now in Chaoyang

    • Webster

      Is that normal!?

  • Gordon Gogodancer

    well if it’s a long commute but good pay, good environment then it’s okay i guess. But here it’s quite exhausting.

  • Nessquick Choco

    This just to support the green numbers in a GDP growth… because workers in order to survive, they have to spend more on transport. this lead to bigger oil consumption. the driver earn more money and they need more buses to serve them, so more people have to work to move few workforce to the workplace and back …
    Someone has a great brain in Beijing if they can think of this…

  • Markoff

    I find it funny, how this Yanjiao is part of Hebei while Mentougou (think Cuandixia) is Beijing, makes a lot of sense, what a joke…


    btw. if there is 300K people commuting every day and buses are crowded every day to that situation that people take black taxi, carpool or take different buses why just government doesn’t increase frequency of buses even if it would cost little bit more? apparently it would be too logical for China to supply demand for infrastructure, better build roads from nowhere to nowhere

    • Zappa Frank

      Seems like for the houses, they care about to build more and don’t fix what they already have… But maybe I “don’t understand Chinese culture”

  • Teacher in China

    I stayed in Yanjiao for a few days many years ago and did that bus ride into Guomao. It is, indeed, FUCKING SHITTY.

  • Luck Of Fire

    Hopefully Singapore doesn’t end up like Yanjiao.

  • Foreign Devil

    Where in the states do you live that you need to commute 2 hours each way to work? Must be outside of NYC or L.A.?

  • Mighty曹

    This is the start of an ‘urbanization’. No big deal.

  • བོད་

    Despite all the criticism and bashing it gets, Beijing is still the most beautiful city in the world.

    • YourSupremeCommander

      is that supposed to be some inside joke?

      • བོད་

        Well, that’s just my personal opinion.

        • Surfeit

          Dude it’s grand, but kinda crazy. How many cities have you lived in?

          • བོད་

            I lived in 5 different cities in 4 different continents, but I travel a lot. I lived in Beijing, so my comment in based on my personal experience.

          • Zappa Frank

            well now you should tell which are the other 5 cities, because if it was Kolkata, Laos, Detroit or similar it is not quite a match..

          • བོད་

            I lived in major cities such as Paris, L.A, Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Beijing is a special place for me.

          • Zappa Frank

            i have not lived but just visited paris and beijing…de gustibus non disputandum est…but is really hard to believe

          • Surfeit

            Fair play. Good to love.

    • Waiguoren

      C’mon, even in Mainland China Shanghai is way better than Beijing. Let’s be realistic.