16-year-old prodigy refuses to finish PhD until he gets a house

| October 26th, 2011

From IFeng:

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At the age of 16, most Chinese students are still in High School. But 16-year-old Zhang Xinyang (张炘炀) stunned the country in 2006 when he entered college at the age of 10. Currently 16 years old, he is working towards his Ph.D in Pure Mathematics at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (北京航空航天大学). Since early this year, he has been pressuring his parents to buy him an apartment in Beijing. He even threatened to abandon his PhD and forgo defending his graduation thesis. "If I graduate with a PhD, but don’t even have my own house, what’s the point of having a Ph.D? " asked Zhang.

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At the tender age of 10, Zhang passed the college entrance exam and became the youngest college student

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At 13, he began to work on his master degree

The housing prices in Beijing are one of the highest in China. To buy an apartment is almost an impossible feat for Zhang’s humble wage-earner parents. But the 16-year-old doesn’t consider his request to be unreasonable. In his interview with reporters, he said, "They [his parents) want me to stay in Beijing so they should work for it…I don’t know if they have imposed their dream on me or not, but basically, I’m just following their unfulfilled dream. That’s it. "

Out of options, Zhang’s parents rented an apartment in Beijing and lied to Zhang that they’d bought it. Shorly after, Zhang found out the truth, but his determination to get an apartment hasn’t wavered a bit.

Having grown up in the public eye, a darling of the media, Zhang has long considered himself superior to his classmates, deserving of special treatment. He also makes no effort to conceal his pride. One time in college, he interrupted a professor during a lecture to ask "Do you think I’m the smartest student in this class?"

Zhang’s father, Zhang Huixiang (张会祥), comes from a humble rural family. As a young man he had been accepted by a famous university in China but had to give up the opportunity because of the expensive tuition fees. For this reason, he decided to dedicate his life to provide the best opportunity for his son. He and his wife focus their entire energies on their son’s study They haven’t watched a single t.v show for more than ten years now, fearing that it might distract their son from his studies. Zhang Huixiang even published a book entitled "Magical Study: Notes on Raising a Ten Year Old Prodigy” (《神奇的学习-10岁大学生张忻炀培养纪实》)"detailing how he parented Zhang Xinyang.

Surrounded by adult classmates, the 16-year-old began to put "house and car" onto his list of top priorities, like most Chinese adults today. Increasingly, material success has become a determining factor in people’s decision to enter into relationships with one another. The 16-year-old also shared this point of view. He told reporters that he had a crush on a girl in his class. He put her photo in his MP4 player, so that whenever he felt frustrated, he would look at the photo. However, he won’t confess his feelings until he has "become successful." When asked what counts as success in his view, he said, "Beijing Hukou (the household registration that officiates one’s residence in Beijing), a house and a good job."

Like in any family, Zhang and his father have different opinions though the falling-outs between them occur more often now. Sometimes Zhang tells his father to "shut up." Zhang’s father has blamed the vanity of big cities for his son’s change. "He’s exposed to things that are not appropriate for a child his age. Now he believes that he can’t live without money, even though he’s gifted and knowledgeable.."

Zhang’s story has stirred up heated discussion on parenting in China. While this seems to be another classic struggling-prodigy story, it reflects something more than just parenting.  Some experts state that Zhang’s request is revenge on the parents who have imposed their dreams on their son. Many others believe that their story shows how society’s increasing materialism is destroying people’s values.

43 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. Huzhang says:

    Or you use that PhD to get a job and buy a house you arrogant little shit

  2. HansDampf says:

    So smart, yet so dumb.

  3. shenmeniao says:

    doogie howser with chinese characteristics?

  4. ununanimous says:

    He’s probably a savant as in savant syndrome. he’s really really smart and talented in one area (so mathematics as we see here). however he probably lacks common sense and social skills and perhaps a deep understanding of life and love. i’m not putting him down for anything; he’s been a victim of his environment. If he really is a savant then we can clearly see and easily understand why his priorities and ideologies are so muddled. Then again he could just be young and even more so immature as he did not growing up with peers and under the media’s attention.

    • M says:

      Stop making excuses you dumb piece of shit. I’m sure if he was savant the article would mention it, idiot. Oh, and I’m sure he also has aspergers and austism so let’s all bow down and worship this poor kid.

      Moron.

  5. M says:

    “If I graduate with a PhD, but don’t even have my own house, what’s the point of having a Ph.D? ”

    ^What kinda stupid logic is this? Stupid fool.

  6. stevelaudig says:

    extortion |ikˈstôr sh ən|
    noun
    the practice of obtaining something, esp. money, through force or threats.

    If he extorts a house at 16. what will he extort at 20?

  7. M says:

    Earn it yourself. Some people come into this world with crippling mental/physical disabilities and without parents (or abandoned by them). He’s already alot more fortunate than his arrogant self would seem to think.

  8. chineseeatchinese says:

    typical story of a pair of stupid greedy parents who raised a child to be a monster and gets bitten by the monster the child has become…

  9. Yu says:

    This is what is so unfortunate about modern China. All the students know is study study study. What the hell happened to common sense and basic social skills? By the looks of things This smart yet arrogant teenager does not seem so well rounded. Sure he is smart, but I believe that he’s weak in other areas. Skipping ahead so many grades and growing up in an environment without common peers must have done something. Oh and on top of everything look at him! You’re suppose to be a fucking man but you instead look like a twig that can barely withstand wind. If I was his father I’d be extremely disappointed with myself. Sure My son is smart but what can he do besides study and ask for shit he does not deserve?!

    • k.c says:

      Keep in mind that none of these stories are meant to “REPRESENT ALL OF CHINA AND ALL ITS TERRIBLE PROBLEMS” It’s one story about one family. Sure, there are details that do point to certain problems with China’s education policy. But let’s not forget that the same education policy churns out millions of smart, ambitious kids, some of whom come to the States to contribute their huge talents to our intellectual pie. Not to mention that this very kid is a beneficient of that same education system. At the same time you’re talking about Chinese kids being soulless study machines, other hardworking kids are joining nonprofits in Beijing, spending their time teaching less fortunate students, or coming to the States to add their invaluable experiences to our economy.

      • Yu says:

        Of course! I definitely see your point of view. But from a parent’s perspective. I would like to see a more well-rounded child. I believe China’s modern Education system is utter failure. There are many bright minded individuals in China. Yet they are all forced down the road of doing homework until 2 am in the morning without any real learning experiences other than listen to the teacher and staying in line.

        • k.c says:

          I agree that American students are more rounded –or is it that they’re “forced” to be more rounded. A kid with good grades also needs to play varsity soccer and head her high school’s debate and model u.n teams, and intern in the slums of india to get into a good college. Don’t high achieving american h.s students pull all-nighters all the time? I have doubts that a kid taking 6 AP classes, playing a sport, and taking on leadership positions are any less stressed, freaked out than their Chinese counterparts. And aren’t they toeing the line in terms of what schools expect of them, at least until they graduate?

  10. fireworks says:

    16 year old still a kid emotionally and socially. So that is why the stupid comments.
    Graduating with a PhD to get a good job or start a company like all the other drop out. Stop making stupid comments while sponging on the parents.

  11. Hugh Grigg says:

    I’ve always thought that the sheer population size in China must produce a few more of these cases than most other countries get. I’m always amazed to read that the parents intended it all along – it sounds like such a crazy plan, but it seems to have worked out exactly as they wanted. Still, the poor guy’s had no childhood now..

  12. Visitor says:

    You arrogant self centred prick. Your parents gave you everything they could and you still want more, it is now time for you to take care of them. Someday soon the real world will knock on your door and you will find out what it is really like. Get to a mental health specialist quickly, before your selfish and irrational demands get the best of you and we are reading about you jumping of a building because you finally find out the world will not bend to you…..

  13. Stu says:

    Well done Chinahush on getting rid of the trolls! Not sure how you did it, but it appears to have worked…

    I wonder how much of this is true. That bit about interrupting the professor sounds… unlikely. But then, I don’t doubt this kid is slightly crazy.

  14. Mick says:

    I dropped out of my PhD program partly because I found all the other ‘scholars’ had an emotional maturity age of about 13. Nothing’s changed then!

  15. Kaki says:

    I’d be interested in seeing his father’s book if it’s ever published in English to compare it to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, a best seller published here in the US. It’s a hilarious book documenting how a Chinese/American mother crams studies and violin/piano lessons down her kids throats, and they rebel.

  16. fred says:

    “What kinda stupid logic is this? Stupid fool.”So Ungrateful!!!!!!!Socially ill mind!!!

  17. Curren$y says:

    HE’S GONNA KILL A BUNCH OF KIDS AT A LOCAL KINDERGARTEN REAL SOON

  18. Curren$y says:

    바보 중국인

  19. assburger says:

    THAT KID HAS ASS-BURGERS SYNDROME!

  20. mmm says:

    The kid may be a gifted child, but he’s still a Chinese.

  21. After Burner says:

    This little bastard needs a serious ass whipping. His parents should have taken a belt to his ass when he started acting like this.

  22. Joe says:

    You get a Ph. D to get a job to buy a house, you idiot.

    How does someone so stupid get into college? Must be easy to go to this university.

    • 凯文约翰 says:

      Hey Joe, Do you have a degree? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get into college and pay for it?

  23. Blowtorch says:

    If this is what they learn from BJU – then good luck to the peasants when this generation becomes society leaders. If China does not implode, it probably will die a self-decaying death on the world stage.

  24. So Sad says:

    Soo he threatened to quit his studies if not given a house. Fine let him do it and he’ll just be another peon in china’s economic pen.

  25. Bai Guy says:

    This is how you create a serial killer.

    As always, China gets the letter but doesn’t understand that there’s also even such a thing as a spirit to the law. This kid probably can’t even tie his own shoelaces, let alone figure out relatively simple tasks that aren’t even that far beyond his minutely narrow range of rote study.

    You see, innovation relies on a concept called conception. This relies on independent thinking, something you can’t learn in books. This is where Chinese people fail. I’ve dropped 3 American college courses because the professors, all from Mainland China, were impossible to deal with. They were petty, cruel, required obscene amounts of busy work with no substance, and actually punished but writing above what was required and suggesting outside reading. Above all, they were all terrible because they were all from another planet. They thought that giving insane amounts of on new material would teach us that material, & never actually went over anything in class except to test us on material they never taught us. I’ve also had professors from the US,Pakistan, Egypt, India, Korea & Ghaa that were wonderful, as well Canadians, Argentines & Americans who were all terrible. But the Chinese take the cake.
    I took Mandarin for 2 years & I’ve been all over China. I hate China. I Immediately stopped taking Mandarin after I saw what a vile, disgusting & backward place China actually is.
    All that talk about America shaking in its boots is only because Americans don’t realize that outside the cities, there IS NO healthcare system to speak of, most people live off of less than $2/day & people shit in holes.

    It’s crazy cause Hong Kong is like anywhere else in the world. That is to say, you won’t have trains built on stolen blueprints crash because the concrete the rails were laid on was cut with fake cement. Shit like that is incomprehensible anywhere outside of china. Hell, the Germans, Koreans & basically anyone who respects technology looked at that entire

  26. Ken Ji says:

    Money buys houses, not Ph.Ds. Jobs get money and Ph.D don’t get you jobs, experience and your resourcefulness does.

    This kid seems to have neither.

    Good luck in life

  27. Anji says:

    Omg, I can’t believe most of you even have the nerve to call him stupid. He is FUCKING intelligent!! And he is still young people.

  28. voiceofhomer says:

    Shit, even Obamakong don’t have a masters or a PhD to become the US pres.

    All you need is a bif mouth and talk your way tinto everything.

    The kid has it, he will make a great US pres one day.

  29. visitor says:

    in that picture, his father is facepalming…

    I’m sure his parents worked very hard to raise this kid. Clearly he is gifted in academics but selfish and immature. When his parents saw him studying and excelling in school, they probably thought they were doing a great job. Any sign of assholery, “well, he deserves it. he’s a genius!” Now they regret it because with that kind of attitude (typical of spoiled teenagers but quite dangerous with such a bright mind), he will crash and burn someday.

  30. Alen says:

    How rich are the parents?Did they force him to do the PhD (Under 2 years?!?!) at a young age and not allow him to pursue anything worthwhile? You guys don’t think about how he’s not socializing with people around his own age (mentally),because everyone is in awe of him or they can’t relate. Have you guys ever thought the ISOLATION this kid MIGHT have felt from all of this. You guys are so judgmental critics about someone else problems,when some ‘special’ kid skipping 1-3 grades(even they capable of doing the work) are constantly pestle by everyone about SOCIALIZATION. IMAGE SKIPPING 3-4 times more GRADES.

    People complaining about rote memorization….its China and not just him alone. Also there several brilliant PhD Mathematics in China,so you screaming about there lack of innovation at the ‘highest’ level is to my current(possible flaw knowledge) is wrong.

    Its funny when people talk about the important of modesty and humility as the greatest of all virtues,when they NEVER GOT THE ABILITY to be OTHERWISE. You talk about shit complaining of socialization(something that can be taught) and modesty,when you guys are probably never in his shoe or even close. If you are not extremely gifted and/or inwardly motivated to do well,your accomplishment will never put you above your peers enough that they can’t relate to you. 10 year old surrounded by 18+ year olds will OBVIOUSLY BE IN PRIME TIME TO LEARN SOCIALIZATION. ESpecially when he MAJOR in MATH…idiots…

    Oh yeah PhD,Expert at very little….that the same in America as well.Also most PhD never make great extreme contribution requiring creativity(assuming he doesn’t have it,I don’t even know how you come up with him not having it just because of a little socialization fail). Just because he end up like most of American PhD…well you decide on that.

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