Chinese wanna-be artists fight for their dreams as platoon of the NCEE army

From gzdaily

People often describe the annually national college entrance examination (NCEE) as thousands of militants crossing a single-log bridge, from which one can almost imagine how many students fall off just because of the path being too difficult. While the whole army is marching, a little platoon consist of music students, art students, performance students etc takes a byroad to get to the same destination – university.

As artistic talented students, they enjoy discounts in examinations of liberal arts and sciences subjects , by keeping scores above the bottom line, they can just sing, paint, or dance their way into universities with outstanding talents. However, the platoon become overstaffed

these years perhaps because Chinese families are placing more emphasis on talent nurturing, or simply just because it is easier to get admitted. Anyway artistic talented students are getting more competitors every year, and prestige artistic colleges only offer slit for the sea of knockers: Beijing Film Academy (北京电影学院) has 98% culling rate for acting major applicants. It released the list for third tryout of acting department on March 8th, leaving only 532 out of 13668 applicants further chances for the next round. The next day, Xinghai Conservatory of Music (星海音乐学院) kicked off its 3-day preliminary tryouts for its pop music department, 800 students show up for only 90 places. Communication University of China (中国传媒大学) increased its enrollment for broadcasting majors to 686 this year and received 18,000 applications. Dancing Department of Minzu University of China (中央民族大学) will reject 92% applicants. And Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (广州美术学院) is in grading phase on March 10th with 4% acceptance rate.

To take a closer look, reporters of Guangzhou Daily visit some of the popular artistic universities.

Beijing Film Academy:

The acting department of Beijing Film Academy is well- known for its high reject rate – 4234 students vie for 75 places this year. According to the list released on March 8th, its first two tryouts have sent 3702 applicants home, leaving 532 for the third tryout from 9th to 14th.

A pair of girl twins was disappointed not seeing their names on the list, they said they came a long way from Chongqing City out of longing for the stage in Beijing. But they remain positive: “we’ll be here next year. There is a saying, ‘heart will not die until it hits the south wall’, our south wall is set at 30 years old, we will try something else if we still aren’t actresses at 30.”

Xiao Zhou from Jiangxi Province has the same persistence for becoming a star: “I want to be a star like Sun Li (孙俪), she start as a dancing student, so do I. My parents spare no pains to support me, they spent tens of thousands yuan for my classes, as well as my train ticket and hotel expenses. I know we are not rich, though they never mention anything to me.” She also said  the interviewers are quite pleased with her ballet, and that she stood a better chance in figure.

However, netizen “Junjie” as an old hand warned those candidates from obsessing with pretty face and perfect body shape. He said: “you have to distinguish yourself in front of the interviewers, who can tell whether you have acting potential by minutes. Creativity, imagination and feeling for acting are what they most concern about rather than pretty face or body figure. Don’t try too hard or too harsh, just show them your acting potential and uniqueness.”

Child stars Yang Zi (left) and Zhang Yishan (right) from the famous sit-com “Don’t miss Home With Kids(家有儿女)” both made it to the third tryout for acting major of Beijing Film Academy. Yang Zi quitted all her acting works in order to focus on training of dancing, figure, acting, lines etc. She said: “I won’t regret as long as I try.”

There are 3 conditions for candidates, according to Long Jun Jie, instructor of Shanghai Theatre Academy. First, man must look like a man, and woman must look like a woman; second, candidate must present healthy impression; and third, their air must match Chinese mainstream cultural value, which means boy with piercings, girl with heavy makeup, tattoo, fluffy hair or odd dressing are not welcomed in tryouts.

Among these dreams chasers, some have years of experiences for tryouts, some decide to try once for all. Xiao Xue’s from An Hui Province who said she won’t try again if fail this year: “I always have a star dream in mind, so I sign up as everybody does. My mother and I started our tryout rush since January. I never thought it would be so tired and difficult. Apart from tryout fees, my training, cosmetics, and costumes are costing us a fortune. We have spent too much on this dream.”

Mr. Zhang of Beijing Film Academy suggests that art is expensive, candidates must be reasonable if they are not economically sufficient; and natural gift is very important in acting industry, parents should not view it as a shortcut for university.

Xinghai Conservatory of Music:


Xinghai Conservatory of Music attracts 800 applicants for its 90 places in pop music department, which doesn’t exist in Central Conservatory of Music (中央音乐学院) or Shanghai Conservatory of Music (上海音乐学院).

“This is the second year I apply for Xinghai.” Said Y, a Zhejiang boy who also signed up for tryouts of Music colleges in Xi’an and Shenyang, he failed Xinghai last year by 2.5 points. Y spent over 90,000 yuan last year for training stuffs, hiring tutors, renting apartment etc, and 60-70 thousand yuan by far this year. He is under great pressure since he has quite full an examination schedule: on March 6th he finished exam in Shenyang and went back to Guangzhou for another exam on 9th, then on 10th morning he flew to Zhejiang for another one, which would release the names for next round on 12th, if his name’s on it, he will be there on 16th again.

Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts:

The university planned to enroll 1,225 students, but received 30,000 applications, approximately 1 out of 25 students will be admitted.

How does the college grade such a huge amount of paintings? One easy and visual way is to place them sheet by sheet on the floor of gymnasium, while teachers go over them, discussing and grading.

According Professor Wu, majors like Chinese painting, oil painting, engraving and sculpture are cooling down as students and parents turn to more practical majors like animation and design for they are easier to learn and land a job in the future. However, there are only 30 places available for animation major, 15 less than Chinese painting and sculpture, and 10 less than oil painting major.

Professor Wu suggests that art demand gift just as music and acting do, learning method, artistic potential and sensitivity are far more significant than pure interest. Some parents switch target to art college just as soon as they realize that their kids are doing too bad in normal subjects. They stand little chance unless the kids are so talented that they acquire art soon enough to pass all the examinations and tryouts.

  1. “First, man must look like a man, and woman must look like a woman; second, candidate must present healthy impression; and third, their air must match Chinese mainstream cultural value, which means boy with piercings, girl with heavy makeup, tattoo, fluffy hair or odd dressing are not welcomed in tryouts.”

    What bull. Everybody in the “West” knows that real actors and actor-to-bes are supposed to stand out, at least a bit. The people I used to know were who wanted to be something in acting and who had talent were NEVER mainstream. This sounds like a typical example of Chinese narrowmindedness and the there-is-only-one-way-to-do-it mentality. Boring, predictable and plain stupid. I can easily think of a couple of much loved and very famous (within China) comedians and actors who would never have been admitted to this school.

    China definately needs some student riots to change the whole corrupt and old fashioned secondary educational system that churns out ordinary and mediocre graduates. LET’S GO 60S!!

    1. Yawn~ yet another elocutionist who’s giving us a lecture on how Chinese should behave, but failed to read the article carefully. That’s the dress code of a particular college’s entrance exam/interview. “A typical exmaple of Chinese narrowmindedness and the there-is-only-one-way-to-do-it mentality”? LOL. That’s pretty much a typical example of your narrowmindedness and the there-is-only-one-way-to-say-about-China mentality.

      “China definately needs some student riots to … LET’S GO 60S!!”. Right, another culture revolution and a decade of stagnation for China. Your real purpose?

      1. I don’t subscribe to the 60s student riots idea. But I guess his point was that you can’t go about creating artists like you create Olympic gold medalists, because in art and literature there needs to be an element of originality and of spontaneity that can not be created from above. Which probably explains why art and literature in China is in such a pitiful state (relative to the size of the country, I mean).

        Well I don’t know if that was his point, but it is my own point anyway.

        1. You made a good point here. My argument is he can’t make a judgment of a whole system based on the dress code of interview at a particular school and I think it’s reasonable that some schools discourage “boy with piercings, girl with heavy makeup, tattoo, fluffy hair or odd dressing” at tryouts. Different institutions have different rules on dressing in exams and that has nothing to do with creativity and clearly is not a “typical example” of what he claimed. Going from a good point by adding something superfluous doesn’t make the point more solid.

          However, the weakness in China’s art education is not the focus of the article itself. It’s mainly on the competitive nature of art school’s entrance exams, which, from another aspect, reflects the increasing popularity of art education in China.

      2. You are missing my point completely. And honestly, it’s just too fxcking stupid to compare the Western sixties to the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Btw the sixties were WAY before my time but some of the results benefitting the educational systems of the West from that time is something we enjoy the fruits of today.

        I still maintain my stance that there shouldn’t be any kind of stupid dress codes for art students. I am fairly sure Salvador Dali -had he been born in China- would have had to earn his living as a security guard.

        1. Well it is just tryouts dress code, i think it helps the judges to see the candidates quicker and clearer and focus on examing their talents without being distracted by odd dressing,especially when there are thousands more waiting outside. Fair enough

        2. Well, you didn’t say which country’s 60s you were talking about and it’s fair for me to think it’s the Chinese one since this is an article about China. And, it’s equally too fxcking stupid to compare the Chinese system to the Western ones without knowing the Chinese system well – there are a lot respectful artists and litterateurs in Chinese history and today that you may not know.

          The Salvador Dali example is nonsense. C’mon, there’s only one respectful artist in the world and any country that didn’t produce a Dali, even they have great artists of different kinds, only deserves security guards, right? what kind of supremacy is that?

          1. The first part kinda makes sense but the second seems like pure nonsense to me. Btw I definitely know enough about the Chinese educational system to compare it to other areas of the world.

  2. Well, I guess Annie, that you wanted to be an artist, didn’t you? Well, so do I !!!!!!!!! I was one of these dream chasers, but I chose to give up. My dreams are fading when I saw the reality of this society. I had been told a thousand times that dreams were always dreams, but this article does help me to light up my first dream again and thanks Annie. I like your style, always clean, clear in words, yet strong and effective inside.

  3. Art is so subjective, and for thousands of students applying for so few available spots – I wonder if the admissions committee have any safeguards against corruption. I hate to think that more than 50% of the freshman class is actually there because of bribery, favoritism, or corruption in any form. A pretty girl who sleeps with the instructor is going to get a spot, but the talented guy with no money or connections is sent home. The question is: does it benefit a society to have its Artists originate from anything other than the best talent and ability? Afterall, Artists like, Actors or Painters, do not perform surgery, fly an airplane, or anything else that can cause great harm – they just make awful movies or paintings. So who cares if the art schools don’t select the best and brightest – especially when there is no proof of what is the best and brightest in Art?

  4. There are some attention-grabbing points in time on this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There’s some validity but I’ll take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish more! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

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