Tradition, tech add life to admission letters
XI’AN — As the summer sun pushes the mercury to record highs, millions of high school graduates in China are anxiously waiting for parcels to deliver their college dreams.
Zhu Yanguo, 18, from Yulin, a city in Northwest China’s Shaanxi province, couldn’t wait to get his entrance ticket to university life.
His dream letter, from Shaanxi Normal University, finally arrived recently. In the letter, his name, major subject as well as the orientation date were all handwritten in neat Chinese script.
“In an era when printing technology is updated so rapidly, the handwritten admission letter shows the school’s adherence to traditional culture,” Zhu said with a big smile.
In a meeting room some 400 kilometers from Zhu’s home, more than 20 professors dipped their brushes into ink and wrote the personal information of new students in a 2,000-year-old script.
The custom notice from Shaanxi Normal University, a tradition it began 11 years ago, has been called the “most precious acceptance letter”.
“I can still recall the day I received my offer,” said Duan Yongchang, who is pursing his doctorate in exercise physiology at the same university.
“It conveys the ethos, motto as well as the academic atmosphere of the university. Every student can feel it,” he added.
The delivery of good exam results has a long history in China. In the feudal ages, the imperial examination was the only way for ordinary people to enter powerful civil service positions. The candidate who earned the highest score was escorted home with supreme honor.
Even in modern times, the college entrance exams, known as gaokao in Chinese, remain the most important way for young Chinese, especially those living in remote areas, to shape their lives.
At a time when information can be delivered instantly at no cost, custom admission letters have emerged to add a personal touch for incoming students.
This year, the Northwestern Polytechnical University has sent out the country’s first augmented reality-embedded acceptance letter. Scanning a QR code on the letter reveals a 3D scroll on screen, which displays photos on the history and development of the university.
Three icons on the back of the acceptance letter can be scanned to show off three of the university’s most popular courses — aeronautics, astronautical engineering and marine engineering — with 3D images of the Long March rockets, China’s self- developed aircraft carrier and an animated character who introduces the courses.
“The offer is not only an invitation. It also embodies the quality and characteristics of our university,” said Xie Dan, deputy director of the admission office. “We hope the students can see the school’s innovative spirit and our high expectations for them.”
Universities in Beijing and Zhejiang have also broken conventions by adding handpainted embellishments and even giving away books.
A professor of Shaanxi Normal University writes an admission letter with a brush in Xi’an, Shaanxi province.