University rituals evolving with time

Updated: 2010-07-13 00:00
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University rituals evolving with time

BEIJING — My graduation celebration was everything but creative. Hangovers and poker dominated my last days of school before I left my university a decade ago.

These are old-fashioned celebrations, as many may say. Yes, they are. Indeed, beer and cards have been popular for years.

That is why I was a bit astonished when I saw the motley of celebrations by this year’s graduates.

Clad in academic gowns, some students climbed a tree to pose for a picture. Some hung up bed sheets painted with slogans and doggerels, while some put bras on trees to “wave” a goodbye filled with love to their alma mater.

What they did was more akin to performance art: fashionable, daring, creative and a bit crazy.

Their behavior represents a universal change over the past decade.

First of all, sex is no longer taboo. It’s hard to imagine bras being used for graduation celebrations ten years ago when drying a laundered bra in a dormitory balcony was a shy deed.

Second, cyber-culture has become an inalienable part of people’s lives.

Many slogans painted on the bed sheets used cyber language that is strange for those who seldom visit social-networking sites. For a “Martian” — a cyber-word to describe a man with no fashion sense or taste, like me — Google was the only aid.

Last but not least, younger people are more confident in expressing their feelings and are aware of the right to speak.

That is definitely great progress as our centuries-old Confucianism, which advocates conservativeness, mixes with other cultures while China undergoes globalization.

Admiring their innovation and passion, I also see their “not-so-normal” behavior as their last chance to emote in such a spectacular fashion.

They are going to face a great deal of challenges unseen ten years ago — high housing prices for example — in an increasingly materialistic China. And they probably have been aware that the carefree university days will never be repeated in the rest of their lives.

Good luck!