XI'AN, July 27 (Xinhua) -- As the summer sun pushes the mercury to record highs, millions of high school graduates in China are anxiously waiting for parcels to deliver their college dreams.
Zhu Yanguo, 18, from Yulin City in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, couldn't wait to get his entrance ticket to university life.
"I am looking forward to the offer so much that I have gone to the post office every day," he said.
His dream letter, from Shaanxi Normal University, finally arrived in late July. In the letter, his name, major as well as the orientation date were all handwritten in neat Chinese script.
"In an era when printing technology is updated so rapidly, the hand-written admission letter shows the school's adherence to traditional culture," Zhu said with a big smile.
In a meeting room some 400 kilometers from Zhu's home, more than 20 professors dipped Chinese writing brushes into ink and carefully wrote the personal information of freshmen in a 2,000-year-old script.
The custom notice from Shaanxi Normal University, a tradition it began 11 years ago, has been called "the most precious acceptance letter."
"I can still recall the day I received my offer," said Duan Yongchang, who is pursing his doctorate in exercise physiology at the university.
"It conveys the ethos, motto as well as the academic atmosphere of the university. Every student can feel it," he said.
LONG HISTORY, NEW TRADITIONS
The delivery of good exam results has a long history in China.
In feudal ages, the imperial examination was the only way for ordinary people to enter powerful civil service positions.
The candidate who earned the highest score was escorted home with supreme honor and could receive an edict from the emperor indicating his high status.
Even in modern times, when success is no longer defined solely by academic performance, acceptance letters mean a lot to a family. The college entrance exams, known as the "gaokao" in Chinese, remain the most important way for young Chinese, especially those living in remote areas, to reshape their destinies.
In a time when information can be delivered instantly at no cost, custom admission letters have emerged to add a personal touch for incoming students.
This year, Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) has sent out the country's first augmented reality-embedded acceptance letter.
Scanning a QR code on the letter reveals a 3D digital scroll on screen, which displays photos about the history and development of the university.
Three icons on the back of the acceptance letter can be scanned to show off three of the university's most popular courses -- aeronautics, astronautical engineering and marine engineering -- with 3D images of the Long March rocket family, China's self-developed aircraft carrier and an animated character who introduces the courses.
"The offer is not only an invitation. It also embodies the quality and characteristics of our university," said Xie Dan, deputy director of the admission office. "We hope the students can see the school's innovative spirit and our high expectations for them."
Universities in Beijing and Zhejiang have also broken admission letter conventions by using recycled paper, adding hand-painted embellishments and even giving away books.
(Yang Yang also contributed to the reporting)