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China’s ‘Gaokao Prophets’

Which celebrities predicted this year’s essay questions?

The 2018 China National College Entrance Examination (gaokao) has kicked off, starting a new era when students born after 2000 are now taking their first steps to college admissions and bright futures—and create even more bizarre rituals and anecdotes along the way.

In this year’s gaokao-season buzzword is the “gaokao prophet” (押题王 yātíwáng), after netizens discovered uncanny similarities between certain songs, and some celebrities late-night ramblings on Weibo, to questions that appeared on the Chinese Subject Test. Could there be agents of entertainment circles hidden in the Ministry of Education? Whatever the reason, these days, the internet is filled with that old advertising slogan: “Since I began following these celebrities, mom no longer has to worry about my studies.”

Take a look at the following predictions gone unwittingly right (or is it?).

Wallace Chung develops the motherland

On June 6, the day before the exams, Hong Kong actor Wallace Chung posted a lengthy Weibo update seeming with no context, and phrasing like, “sophisticated technology converts our lives into the era of science and technology, especially since the arrival of the mobile information era. Nonetheless, modern technology has yet to be so advanced as to implant memory chips into our brains, so reading books is still indispensable for absorbing and accumulating knowledge.”


Now look at the essay question from 2018 Beijing gaokao:

“New era, new youth”
Today, lots of candidates who were born in 2000 will to take the National College Entrance Examination. The past 18 years have witnessed an unprecedented progress of the motherland and you have also grown into adolescents. Write a composition on the growth and advancement of homeland.

Okay, it’s not actually that similar. Undeniably, though, Chung used the buzzwords “technology” and “unprecedented progress” multiple times, and netizens began joking that his Weibo could pass the Beijing exam with flying colors. This was the catalyst which started the hunt for more gaokao prophets.

Yi Yangqianxi has a date with the national essay question

At the 2018 Spring Festival Gala, baby-faced TFBoy Yi Yangqianxi performed a song called “I Have a Date With 2035.” In the 2018 national version of the gaokao, the essay question asked:

“For 18-year-old youth in 2035”
Each generation has its own opportunities, missions and challenges. Fortunately, you grow up and pursue dreams together with the new era of China’s development. As a new generation of teenagers, please write the essay about your imagination and aspiration for the future, putting it into the “Time Bottle” for 18-year-old generation in 2035.

Title of Yi’s song? Check. Yi’s age? He turns 18 this year. What does he sing? “My dear motherland will become more beautiful and harmonious, standing tall in the new world…I have a date in 2035, at the new start of the new journey, sincerely create two centuries, in the future we will play the leads.” Coincidence?

…or are the exam writers secretly fans of TFBoys?

Ma Dong is needed by the Shanghai essay question

In Produce 101, a talent show, Chinese emcee Ma Dong had the following inspirational quote for the viewers and dreamers: “Only when you are maximally different, then will you be maximally needed.”

Unfortunately, he’s not so different from the 2018 Shanghai gaokao essay question:

“Be needed”
In daily life, people not only pay attention to their own needs, but also often desire to be needed by others to reflect their own values. There is a general recognition of this “needed” psychology. Write your perspective.

Netizens take all gaokao prophets in good fun, of course, but there’s no denying Ma would probably failed this question, being focused less on explaining this “psychology” and more on how to exploit it.


Ran Meng is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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