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Family celebrates Lantern Festival hundreds of miles apart

By Feng Lu (chinadaily.com.cn)

The rapid development in China's economy over the past decades has forced many workers to move from their rural hometowns and villages to cities in order to find work. The result has been that millions of children have been left behind, often in the care of their elderly grandparents. The separation between parents and their children is never felt more keenly than at times of festivals and celebrations.

The Lantern Festival is a time of family gatherings and reunions, but this is sadly not the case for the more than 20 million left-behind children in China.

Wei Xiangfei, 12, Wei Hanxin, 11, and their 5-year-old sister Wei Xiangna live with their 73-year-old grandmother in Nonghe village, Dahua Yao autonomous county in Hechi, Guangxi. Their parents work in Fenggang town in Dongguan, Guangdong province, more than 700 kilometers away.

The couple sends 1,000 yuan ($153) back home every month for the three children and their grandmother. The father, Wei Guifu, 36, said that although they can only earn several thousand yuan a month in Guangdong, it is already much more than in their hometown. "Having three children living and studying in Guangdong is at vast expense, we simply cannot afford it, so we had no choice but to leave the children at home," Wei said bitterly.

"We miss the children greatly, but we do this so they will have a better future," Wei said he plans to save enough money and return home in the future to set up his own goat farm.

Reporters from Xinhua News Agency took the following pictures in Guangdong and Guangxi on Feb 22 and put them together to create a family reunion.

Family celebrates Lantern Festival hundreds of miles apart

The parents assemble string light battery packs to make a living in Guangdong while their two daughters read books at home in Guangxi. [Photo by Mao Siqian and Huang Xiaobang / Xinhua]

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Hechi is located in the northwestern part of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and the southern foothills of the Yungui Plateau.