Tens of thousands of high school students begin gaokao
More than 50,000 high school students began their college entrance examination at over 100 sites citywide on Wednesday.
The annual college entrance examination, or gaokao, is one of the most important exams in China. This year, a record 12.91 million people have applied for the exam nationwide, marking an increase of 980,000 from 2022, according to figures released by the Ministry of Education.
In Shanghai, students, parents and teachers got up early this morning to ensure they could arrive at the examination sites on time and make a good start on the three-day exam.
The exam began at 9am and students were required to arrive 15 minutes earlier.
At the exam site at Xinzhuang High School in Minhang District, most students arrived between 7:30am and 8:30am. Teachers and parents checked their bags to make sure they had brought all necessary items such as the exam attendance dockets, and no banned items were there, such as phones, digital watches with communications functions or other items that could be used for cheating.
One student was almost late after his parents' car got stuck on the way in a traffic jam. He got out and started to run to the exam site but quickly tired.
Fortunately, the mother of another student in the same school unit saw him and drove him to the site on her moped, dropping him off at the site at 8:42am, three minutes before the deadline.
Some parents and teachers dressed up to express their best wishes for the exam-takers.
Many parents and teachers wore red clothes as red is an auspicious and jubilant color which Chinese people believe brings good luck.
Several mothers wore cheongsam, or qipao (旗袍), as the first Chinese character is the same as in the auspicious idiom qi kai de sheng (旗开得胜), which means to win from the very beginning.
Some also brought sunflowers as their Chinese name xiang ri kui (向日葵) includes a character with the same pronunciation as a word in another auspicious idiom yi ju duo kui (一举夺魁), which means to win the championship or a top title at one stroke.
Wu Xiaohui, the mother of a gaokao sitter, said she got up at 5:30am to prepare breakfast for her daughter and dressed for the occasion.
"We had zongzi (粽子), a traditional Chinese rice-pudding, and dingshenggao (定胜糕), a kind of rice cake whose name means 'sure to win', as the two combined sounds like gaozhong (高中), meaning to come first in the exam."
Wu said her qipao was custom-made and she also wore earrings shaped as four-leaved clovers as the Chinese name of the plant is xingyuncao (幸运草), literally meaning lucky grass. Four-leaved clovers are also considered lucky in Western culture.
The family even ate McDonald's McMuffins for breakfast as their Chinese name is maimanfen (麦满分), or "full mark". They've booked Pizza Hut for lunch as the Chinese name bishengke (必胜客) sounds like "most certain to win".
At Shanghai Qibao High School, another test site in Minhang, the school gate was crowded with a bustling stream of people. Teachers and parents, many of whom were wearing red clothing, kept their children company before they headed for the gaokao venue, and sent them on their way with best wishes of love and care.
A line of teachers, dressed in red, stood along the student walkway that lead to the examination site and waved goodbye to the students with heart-warming cheers of "jia you" (加油) and blessing words. Some teachers gave their students deep hugs.
They were the Chinese group teachers from Minhang Foreign Language School Middle School Affiliated to SISU. The group leader, Li Huan, wearing a red shirt with the Chinese characters "quan li yi fu" (全力以赴), which means "go all out," and "jin bang ti ming" (金榜题名), meaning succeed in the gaokao, expressed her sincere wishes and confidence in her students.
"It has been a tradition for our school to wear red clothes and cheer on our students on this particular day every year," Li said. "It carries our best wishes for them to be admitted to their ideal colleges. We are always their strongest backers."
Many parents and families remained at the school gate after seeing their children off. They looked at the backs of their children as they walked toward the main building.
A mother surnamed Wei, wearing a red T-shirt with a "tick" emblem and the words "All Right" on the front, said that it demonstrated her best wishes to her daughter to answer the test questions correctly.
"I never put great pressure on her before the exam," Wei said. "We are like intimate friends. We always speak our minds to each other. It helps her to ease her worries and anxiety. So she feels very relaxed and confident about the exam."
The exam will run through Friday with four tests. The first test in the exam is Chinese and will be followed by maths, written English, and English listening and speaking tests.