Chinese universities’ over-the-top acceptance ‘letters’ include lotus seeds, singing boxes and the sound of pulsars

·3-min read

Summer is university acceptance time in China, and, in recent years, a “space race” has emerged between schools hoping to impress prospective students, excite incoming freshmen and receive some free online marketing.

Years ago, receiving a university acceptance letter was a straightforward proposition; a small envelope usually contained a rejection letter, while larger ones probably indicated an acceptance offer.

These days, for some schools, the word “letter” no longer does justice to their acceptance notices and “package” is a more accurate description.

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Nankai University in Tianjin sent potential students a pouch that contained lotus flower seeds. Photo: Weibo
Nankai University in Tianjin sent potential students a pouch that contained lotus flower seeds. Photo: Weibo

One unique acceptance letter posted online this year came from Nankai University, in the northern municipality of Tianjin. The school sent accepted students small pouches filled with lotus seeds from Jiangxi province in eastern China.

Lotus flowers are an important plant in China and have been depicted in Chinese art for centuries.

The Nankai University acceptance letter also celebrated the Communist Party centenary that took place on July 1.

The letter included a note from a 90-year-old academic and Communist Party member that urged students to “live up to your youth” and “take the baton” to help build a stronger China. He wrote: “I’d like to meet you when China takes off in the world!”

Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics included collectible lapel pins (at the top) in their admission package. There are seven pins in total, meaning students could theoretically trade with one another. Photo: Weibo
Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics included collectible lapel pins (at the top) in their admission package. There are seven pins in total, meaning students could theoretically trade with one another. Photo: Weibo

Southeast University, in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, received a lot of attention online and from the media for its “singing box” acceptance letter. Accepted students received a magnetic box that shimmered under specific lighting.

When they opened the box, an instrument played the school song. The box’s interior features a beautiful paper model of the school’s Great Hall and a timeline of significant events.

At Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, also in Nanjing, its acceptance letter highlighted the recent major milestones in China’s space programme from the past couple of years.

Their acceptance package included three-dimensional paper replications of the Chinese Long March-5 rocket, which has become the backbone of the Chinese space programme, along with a depiction of the BeiDou satellite network, China’s answer to GPS. The packet also includes a random selection of four lapel pins.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s admission package hearkened to a classic style, but it was still stunning. Photo: Handout
Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s admission package hearkened to a classic style, but it was still stunning. Photo: Handout

The fancy acceptance notices are not a new feature to 2021, but the competition between schools to outdo one another has increased in the past few years.

Global Times, the nationalistic newspaper, said the trend of over-the-top admission notices first “had a bad side to it,” but as more schools got into the game it formed, “a kind of healthy competition”.

Some other interesting acceptance packages from past years included the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing sending its 2020 class a vinyl disk that featured the sounds made by 15 pulsars, a rotating star that scientists use to help them navigate space.

Nanjing University also sent out a box that year that included flower petals inside a glass tube and a photo of children from the village where the flowers were sourced.

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