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Chinese long for different kind of holiday

After the week-long National Day holiday that ended on Monday, many Chinese people found themselves even more fatigued than usual as they battled large crowds.


Li Hui, a white-collar worker visiting Shaanxi Province, known for its Terra Cotta Warriors, had to cut her family tour short from seven to four days.


"People were stuck almost everywhere," she said, adding that they later decided to just stay at home in northwest China's Qinghai Province to enjoy the rest of the holiday without the rush and traffic jams.


To boost travel and domestic consumption, China has declared a seven-day National Day holiday for the past 14 years and has exempted highway tolls during long statutory holidays since last year, sparking a massive holiday rush in the nation of 1.3 billion people.


According to figures released by the national holiday office under the China National Tourism Administration on Tuesday, 428 million tourists traveled in China over the week-long holiday, bringing in total revenues of 223.3 billion yuan (36.5 billion U.S. dollars).


The huge number of travelers has put a heavy burden on the country's road and rail traffic, scenic spots, and dining and lodging facilities.


In one extreme case, Jiuzhaigou Valley, a World Heritage site famous for its colorful pools, snowy mountains, deep valleys and forests, failed to cope with a rush of 40,000 tourists, leaving more than 4,000 of them stranded in the valley without shuttles or other transportation until 10 p.m. on Wednesday. Traffic in the area was halted when some visitors lost patience and tried to stop buses to get on board.


According to a media worker surnamed Sun in Jiangsu Province, people have been "forced" to have such chaotic holidays.


"We had to work for a longer time before enjoying the holiday, only to find that reservations for everything are difficult and 'mountains of people, seas of people' are everywhere," he said. "It's even more tiring than working."


According to Chinese law, workers have to work on weekends before or after the week-long holiday to make up for the lost work days. This year, for example, people have to work two Saturdays: Sept. 28 and Oct. 12.


"My biological clock has been seriously disturbed by the messed up weekdays and weekends," said Lyu Xuan, a finance worker in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province.


Instead of the national long holiday, Lyu said Chinese workers could have their paid leave subject to law and enjoy their annual leave individually.


Chinese Labor Law stipulates only five days of annual paid leave for employees working for less than five years, and the leave is poorly enacted by some employers.


Zhao Zongfu, chief of Qinghai Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said the week-long holiday is aimed at boosting consumption on one hand, and helping to ease work pressure on the other.


According to a poll of 16,000 workers conducted last year by office space provider Regus, some 75 percent of Chinese workers said they felt more pressure than the previous year, while the global average stayed at 48 percent. China held the highest rate of increased stress levels among all countries where workers were polled.


The holiday has now become a government-led economic campaign instead of a chance for workers to relax, said Zhao, adding that Chinese people do need long holidays for leisure, but in a different way.


"The mess of the holiday revealed that China's holiday system needs to be improved," he said, adding that paid leave should be strictly enacted to protect workers' legal rights.