LIKE many other seniors, Wang Ying, at Wuhan University, has been busy preparing for the postgraduate entrance exams since the new semester began. But in another way she's different. Her motivation comes not from wanting to get a master's degree to find a good job. She wants to pursue further studies because she hopes to learn more about the history and culture of her country.
Wang is majoring in Chinese traditional culture, an unusual major for college students all across the country. These majors are studying a way of life that existed thousands of years ago.
"We read articles loud together. And the teachers explain them word by word. It's quite similar to class in a private school in ancient times," says Ye Daiyin, a junior.
Wuhan established the major four years ago. The students take courses based on the classical culture of ancient China, such as literature, philosophy, and history. Their curriculum has classic works like the Four Books (Si Shu), the Five Classics (Wu Jing), the Song of Chu (Chu Ci), and Lao Zi.
There are interesting ways to study the classical culture.
Many of the students have joined the Chunying Poetry Association, which is open to anyone interested in classical poetry. They usually practise composing ancient poems.
According to Ye, who has joined the poetry association, the members once took a thin piece of sandalwood like a piece of incense, in a classroom, and lit it. They then tried to compose a poem before the stick burned completely. It took about 20 minutes.
"It's interesting to play this kind of game. Now we can compose poems within a short time," Ye said.
The students also find challenges in their studies.
"The course was a little difficult at the beginning. The texts we use are in the original form. The characters are in their original complex form, the one used before they were simplified. And we have to read them from right to left," said Wang Ying, a senior. "It's taken me several months to get used to this."
Reciting the texts is even more challenging.
"It's our homework to recite all the parts of the Four Books, and some of the Song of Chu. It was hard for me to memorize them at first. But it got easier," Wang said.
In fact, she can now recite almost all of the "Dream of Red Mansions" (Honglou Meng) from beginning to end.
In fact, students majoring in Chinese traditional culture were not asked to enrol in the major based on their scores in the college entrance exams.
They transferred into it after taking exams during the second half of their first year of study of other subjects.
Some of them have given up a popular majors, such as Wang. She was in law in her first year of study; others are science majors and now find themselves in a relatively new field. Ye, for example, started university life as a maths major.
And not all of them are convinced of the merits of this new course.
"The job prospects for the major are not promising. It may be hard for graduates to get well-paid jobs," said a sophomore named Song.
But the students doing the new course have their own reasons.
"Our motivation is not money but interest. What we've learnt is far from enough. Many of us hope to pursue postgraduate studies," said Tian Fang, a junior.
The students' enthusiasm for the new major has impressed the teachers.
"It's good that they are serious about their studies. The job prospects may be uncertain for them, but they can succeed by working hard and having a good attitude," said one teacher named Xu who is in charge of the seniors.