Today's college entrance exam is often likened to thousands of people and horses trying to cross a narrow footbridge.
This year a record figure of 9.5 million high-school graduates will sit down for the first day of tests, each vying for one of only 2.6 million undergraduate places.
With the rest of their lives ahead of them, it's a tense day. And one that 9.5 million families have been building up to.
Concerned parents will have taken time off work to cook for their revising children. They'll have mapped out the route to the exam hall, booked hotel rooms nearby and looked out cabs with lucky number plates.
Teachers have been busy answering last-minute queries, and many students will have suffered sleepless nights as tension builds towards the big day.
But not everyone is that nervous. Eighteen-year-old Kong Lingqiang turned up at the Dongdan Sports Centre in central Beijing yesterday afternoon, basketball in hand.
Although he will begin the two-day exam today, Kong, a graduate from Guangqumen Middle School, played basketball with three of his friends for about an hour, showing no signs of pre-exam nerves.
Asked about the looming exam the fair-skinned boy paused for a few seconds, saying he fully realized the importance of the test and that the two-day exam would decide his future life, and that he would not let his parents down. "But last-minute revision won't give you an additional point, and nervousness will make things worse," he said. "Playing basketball helps me relax."
He said he planned to watch TV in the evening, before heading to bed at about 9:30pm. "And I'm looking forward to the World Cup after the exam," he added with excitement.
Kong said his parents are actually more nervous than him. "My mother has been on leave since last week, and always asks me to study," he said.
But teachers and experts suggest parents should not put pressure on students in the build up to the exams.
"Keep a regular schedule and try to relax by listening to music and playing sports" suggests Lin Guirui, director of the psychological counselling centre at Beijing's Capital Normal University. Lin said it was not necessary for parents to change the home environment in the build-up to the exams.
"Any change may leave children with an unsettled state of mind," she said, adding that students should not be over relaxed, as moderate pressure could make people feel excited.
By noon yesterday almost all the hotels near Beijing's exam halls were fully booked.
In west Beijing's Shuncheng Hotel, adjacent to an exam hall the No 8 Middle School every standard room, each costing 720 yuan (US$90) per night, had been booked.
"Even the luxurious 2,800 yuan (US$350) per night suite has been booked for tomorrow," said a receptionist.
Zhang Deming, a 45-year-old father who had never stayed at a star-rated hotel, booked a room in the Shuncheng for his daughter to save time commuting to the exam hall from their apartment. "I want to give my child a quiet place to revise and have a good rest, although the price is pretty high," he said.
Source: China Daily