By Liao Bowen, Yang Mingzhuo
For two days in early June every year, China comes to a standstill as high school students who are about to graduate take their “Gaokao”.
In 2018, about 9.75 million candidates sat for Gaokao, 350,000 more than last year.
The Gaokao which literally translates into “higher examination”, is a national event on a par with a public holiday, but much less fun. Construction work is halted near examination halls and traffic is diverted, so as not to disturb the students. Ambulances are on call outside in case of nervous breakdowns and police cars patrol to keep the streets quiet. A high or low mark determines life opportunities and earning potential. In China, the Gaokao is sometimes described as a “dumuqiao”, which translates into “single-log bridge” – a difficult path that everyone has to walk.