Migrant workers splash out on bathhouses for holiday

Updated:2018-02-14 09:56:47

  Public bathhouses are seeing more customers in the rural areas of Central China, as migrant workers return home to celebrate Spring Festival.

  In the runup to the Lunar New Year, Zhang Shumei's bathhouse in Dama township, Henan province, has seen an increasing number of customers.

  "Business is best near Spring Festival," said Zhang, 58, whose bathhouse has 27 shower rooms and two large communal pools over 350 square meters.

  "People come here to wash away bad luck and prepare for good fortune in the new year."

  The tradition is called xifulu in Chinese, or "wash for happiness and good fortune". It is one of the traditional events in Dama, where people from all walks of life go to public bathhouses with their families at Spring Festival, to wash away ill fortune and usher in a good new year.

  Chinese New Year falls on Feb 16 this year, and hundreds of millions of Chinese will return to their hometowns for family gatherings.

  About 2.98 billion journeys are expected to be made during the Spring Festival travel rush ending on March 12, about the same figure as last year, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planner.

  Zhang's bathhouse opens at 8 am and closes at 11 pm. Since December, business there has been "simply great", she said.

  "Many migrant workers have spent the year working hard in the cities, and when they return home for Spring Festival, they bring their families to the bathhouse."

  Many people have left rural China for jobs in big cities. According to official figures, Henan has produced almost 30 million migrant workers. In the last month of the lunar calendar each year, migrant workers return home from developed areas.

  The last eight days of the lunar year typically are the busiest for Zhang, and customers have to wait in line to shower, she said. Zhang's office, which covers 46 sq m, is where customers usually pay their bills, change shoes and wait their turn.

  "It is common to see more than 200 people waiting in the days leading up to Spring Festival," she said.

  Sun Zhenchao, 25, is a migrant worker who returned to Dama on Feb 1. Last year, when he came to Zhang's bathhouse, there were 125 people waiting ahead of him. So this year, he brought his family at noon, when there were fewer customers.

  "I have had a great year," Sun said. "I hope it will be even better next year."

  Zhang used to use coal-fired boilers to heat water, but as the government has called on the public to join the fight against air pollution, all coal-fired boilers have been replaced with electric units. Last year, she spent 50,000 yuan ($7,970) to buy electric boilers.

  "In the past, I had to employ two workers to take care of the coal-fired boilers," she said. "Now with the electric ones I can save up to 6,000 yuan a month."

  The electric boilers are convenient, she said. "You just have to press a button and there is hot water."

  Zhang said she expected to receive about 6,000 customers before Spring Festival, a year-on-year increase of 10 percent.

  "I wish everyone a great new year," she said.