Domestic Affairs

Signs of a new time

By Zhang Jin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-12 15:43
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My graduation celebration was anything 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 strings of bras on trees to wave a goodbye filled with love to their alma mater.

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

Their behavior represents a universal change of the past decade.

First of all, sex is no longer taboo. It's hard to imagine bras being used for graduation celebrations 10 years ago, when drying a laundered bra in a dormitory balcony was an occasion for embarrassment.

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 about expressing their feelings and are aware of their 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 10 years ago — high housing prices for example — in an increasingly materialistic China. And they probably are aware that the carefree university days will never be repeated for the rest of their lives.

Good luck!