China ‘Hog­warts’ stu­dents em­brace an­cient tra­di­tion at grad­u­a­tion

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

A Chi­nese univer­sity has earned com­par­isons with Harry Pot­ter’s Hog­warts due to its bizarre castle cam­pus, but lo­cal tra­di­tions supplied the magic at a Con­fu­cianstyle cer­e­mony for its de­gree grad­u­ates.

The gi­gan­tic gray tow­ers, stone walls and tur­rets of the He­bei Academy of Fine Arts’ castle com­plex dom­i­nate sur­round­ing wheat fields near Xinle city in north­ern China.

The univer­sity, which has more than 8,000 stu­dents, made head­lines last year when over­seas media com­pared its new cam­pus build­ing to the Hog­warts School of Witch­craft and Wiz­ardry from the Harry Pot­ter se­ries of chil­dren’s nov­els.

“This castle has boosted the rep­u­ta­tion of our academy across the world,” strag­gle-bearded col­lege head Zhen Zhongyi told AFP as he stood in the brick and con­crete build­ing’s shadow.

“I aim to al­low stu­dents to ap­pre­ci­ate Western ar­chi­tec­ture with­out leav­ing the coun­try,” he said, adding that he had in­vested 1.7 bil­lion yuan (US$274 mil­lion) in the academy so far.

The school’s first crop of Bach­e­lor de­gree stu­dents grad­u­ated Tues­day, af­ter en­rolling at the in­sti­tu­tion four years ago, when the cam­pus castle was lit­tle more than a fan­tasy.

“We saw all these build­ings grad­u­ally ris­ing up over the last few years,” said new grad­u­ate Wang Xiao­tian. “Ob­vi­ously I’m very proud of that.”

At a cer­e­mony inspired by an­cient tra­di­tions, Wang and more than 1000 oth­ers donned flow­ing white gowns out­side a red-beamed tem­ple on the cam­pus ded­i­cated to an­cient sage Con­fu­cius.

Cer­e­monies inspired by Con­fu­cian tra­di­tion and Chi­nese “Hanfu” gowns with gap­ing sleeves have be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in the coun­try in re­cent years.

A col­lege of­fi­cial pat­ted each stu­dent with a white brush be­fore they bowed in front of head­mas­ter Zhen, who wore a black gown and his gray­ing hair in a bun.

Af­ter a golf-cart ride back to the castle, new grad­u­ates — some chang­ing into wed­ding gowns — posed for pic­tures and self­ies in the fairy­tale sur­round­ings.

Some seemed ner­vous about the fu­ture.

“I don’t want to leave col­lege. My friends are all here. The school is great,” said Deng Cui, from the academy’s ur­ban de­sign school, who wore a white Hanfu gown with green trim­ming.

Most Chi­nese univer­si­ties are state-run, but Zhen’s academy is one of a grow­ing num­ber of pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions.

The pain­ter-turned-scholar said he raised his ini­tial in­vest­ment from trad­ing art in the 1990s, and plans to ex­pand the cam­pus with a Baroque cathe­dral and a Mid­dle Eastern-style mosque.

Zhen be­came aware of the Harry Pot­ter se­ries last year, he said, adding he no­ticed the build­ing’s style is “pretty much the same” as Hog­warts’.

Asked about com­par­isons with the wizard­ing school’s charis­matic head­mas­ter Al­bus Dum­ble­dore, he replied enig­mat­i­cally: “I think our style of think­ing is some­what sim­i­lar.”

(Left) In a pic­ture taken on Tues­day, univer­sity stu­dents wait in line to re­ceive their cer­tifi­cates dur­ing a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony at the cam­pus of He­bei Academy of Fine Arts in Xinle, He­bei province.


(Above) In a pic­ture taken on Tues­day, June 16 a univer­sity stu­dent re­ceives a cer­tifi­cate from head­mas­ter Zhen Zhongyi dur­ing a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony at the cam­pus of He­bei Academy of Fine Arts in Xinle, He­bei province.

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