The month of June marks not only the beginning of summer, but also the time of year that high school students across the country sit the dreaded gaokao, China’s incredibly competitive college entrance exam. This is also why hundreds of parents surrounded a lucky tree in Anhui province last night to pray for their children, whose test scores will essentially determine their success later on.
Most of the parents are from the local Maotanchang High School (毛坦厂中学), also known as Asia’s largest “gaokao-prep factory”. Because of its rigorous curriculum and reputation for cranking out high gaokao scores, students at the school are under tremendous pressure to succeed.
Parents wielding incense sticks gathered around what the locals call the “God tree”, a wizened tree in a narrow alley believed to bring luck and success.
At exactly 12:00 a.m., hundreds of hopeful parents threw their incense sticks into a large fire pit, hoping theirs would be one of the first 15 sticks to burn—it’s a sign of good luck.
Unfortunately, the bottom of the tree caught on fire as incense sticks that didn’t make it to the fire pit rolled on the ground. We can’t imagine that’s a very good omen. More than 10 police officers rushed to the scene, using eight fire hydrants and buckets of water from a nearby apartment to extinguish the blaze, and presumably the students’ hopes and dreams.
An estimated 68,000 students will participate in this year’s gaokao exams, administered on June 7.
[Images via 163]
By Sharon Choi