2009’s College Entrance Exam Essay Questions
Aside from determining the fates of millions of young Chinese students aspiring to university, these essay questions also signal the tone and direction of China’s higher education system. Mirror (Chinese) asked several famous authors to weigh in on the essay question given to test-takers in Beijing, and Danwei.org has translated:
In Beijing, the prompt students were given was I have a pair of invisible wings (我有一双隐形的翅膀), a line that comes from a popular song sung by Angela Chang (张韶涵). Students were required to write at least 800 characters in any form of writing apart from poetry.
Yesterday’s evening Mirror asked five well-known authors born in four different decades for their impressions of the topic:
Zheng Yuanjie (郑渊洁, 1955)
For several years now, the gaokao essay topic has become increasingly connected to imagination. I think this is a good topic that students have a lot of room to develop.
A few days ago a reporter asked me, “You’ve written King of Fairy Tales for twenty-four years all by yourself. Where do you get the inspiration?” My answer was very much like this prompt: “Because I have a pair of invisible wings.” If I was given this topic to write about, I probably wouldn’t stop even at 8,000 characters. I’d write an essay about my experiences and feelings over several decades.
In the end, for this year’s topic, the better imagination a student has, the more points they will score.
See Danwei also for a translation of the national and regional prompts published by Xinhua.
ChinaGeeks has translated the full versions of the two national essay questions, along with netizen comments:
Question 1: The Rabbit from the Sporting Event
Choose the correct perspective, firmly establish your point, choose your own style and heading, don’t write anything outside the scope of the provided material, don’t interplant or plagiarize.
The rabbit is the sprinting champion of the small animal sporting games, but he cannot swim. Once, the rabbit was chased by the wolf to the riverside, and nearly caught. For the sake of developing the animals, the management enrolled the rabbit in swim training. He was in the same class as the cat, the tortoise, the squirrel, etc. The cat and the tortoise learned to swim, and having acquired another skill, were very happy, but the rabbit and the squirrel still couldn’t swim even after spending a long time studying, and were very worried. Class instructor Duck said: “We, with our two legs, can swim, and you, with four legs, still can’t? 90% of success comes from effort! Come on! Quack quack!”
Critic frog sighed: “What rabbit is good at is running! Why are you only training the weaknesses and not developing the strengths? Thinker Crane said, “Life requires more than just one skill! If the rabbit can’t learn swimming he should learn burrowing, if the squirrel can’t learn swimming he should study tree climbing.”