Public candidates waiting to go ashore: being admitted can make people "look up" and mostly take the exam for their parents.

  In the training class, someone wrote "to be no.1" on the coffee mixer. Shao Zhen/photo

  Yu Zhihui and his mother who is cooking. Shao Zhen/photo

  Candidates are waiting in line for the interview. Shao Zhen/photo

  In the civil service examination circle, candidates are finally admitted as "ashore". In June this year, 100 people signed up for a public examination training course in Jinan, with the aim of being admitted to civil servants in Shandong Province. According to the usual admission ratio, only two or three of them will eventually "land".

  According to statistics, in 2020, 7,360 people were recruited for the Shandong Provincial Examination, and the final number of people who passed the examination was about 410,000, with an average competition ratio of about 56: 1.

  The classroom of the training class is the conference room of a hotel in Zhangqiu, Jinan. There are no windows here, and the time is almost evenly divided into six blocks from 9 am to 9 pm, and each block contains a 90-minute course. This is the first 30-day training course for chalk education in Shandong after the COVID-19 epidemic, with room and board included.

  The value of scores in selection is not absolute. The number of places for civil servants is limited, and the examination conditions vary from place to place. Some people "went ashore" after getting 120 points, while others still failed in the list after getting 180 points. No one can be 100% sure that he has passed the exam.

  For "Why do you want to take the civil service exam?" After questioning, most people in the training class replied, "My parents want me to take the exam."

  This classroom carries far more hopes than 100. The civil service examination is a family event. There are many parents who accompany the examination outside the examination room of each public examination. Some of them will go back to their hometowns to worship their ancestors and pray for their children.

  At the end of the training, it was only ten days before the written test of Shandong Province on July 19th. Before going ashore, they have to go through the final dive. There are coffee, pills and snacks on the table in the classroom, and some people write "to be no.1" on the used coffee stirring stick for paper cups — — That’s their "underwater oxygen".


  At the hottest time of the year, the air conditioner in the classroom is always broken, and every few days someone stands on the table to repair the central air conditioner on the ceiling. The hotel owner is smart and unwilling to spend money on a new air conditioner, saying that there are too many people and it is useless to change it.

  Sitting in the back of the classroom, Wang Chen spread his legs and kept shaking his fan. The front of the fan is the head of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and the back is the head of the top ten marshals. A few days ago, he specially selected this fan in the canteen downstairs.

  Only after 11 o’clock in the evening, when there were fewer people, did the room slowly cool down. For this exam, Wang Chen took a long vacation with the unit and wanted to "fight for breath". He is 29 years old and his hometown is a prefecture-level city in Shandong. He has worked in the system for 7 years. For some reasons, he is the employee of the last institution in his current unit. If he doesn’t take the civil service examination, he will lose the promotion space.

  After graduating from college, Wang Chen wanted to be a lawyer, but his parents disagreed. In their cognition, "only civil servants and teachers are serious jobs". Most students in the class have similar experiences. Some people say that parents won’t let them find another job because "they will regret it if they find it." Others say that parents let them go back to their hometown to take care of each other. For those children who have gone abroad, parents feel "just like losing them".

  When students in the class sign up, one of the most sought-after positions is prison guard, because they can shift shifts, have three days off and have more holidays. Due to the epidemic, more and more people are eager for "stability". Some people in the class can’t find a job after graduation, some people are dismissed, and some people’s original company suddenly closed down. There are countless reasons for taking the civil service exam. Some people want to "serve the people", while others think that it is just a job that can bring stable income and life.

  The age of the students ranges from their early twenties to their thirties, but they are all "children" in their parents’ mouths. "Filial piety is the first." Wang Chen said slowly that he was an obedient child, and even his marriage was completed in a hurry under the expectation and urging of two parents.

  On the wall of his parents’ house, there is a calligraphy and painting that says "home". Some students hang family photos at home, and some stick "Hundred Filial Pieties". Seven years ago, Wang Chen walked out of the career preparation examination site and made a successful gesture to his parents outside. He felt that it was the happiest moment of his parents’ lives. "They may be thinking that this son has not been raised for nothing for more than 20 years."

  There are many unfinished dreams hidden in the hotel room where the training class is located. Some people have yoga mats beside their beds, some have cameras on their desks, and some have guitars in the corner. But in the eyes of parents, yoga instructors, video bloggers or singers are not as decent and secure as being a civil servant.

  Shandong branch school is the largest local branch school of chalk education, and it is also the first stop for chalk education to expand after work this year. At the Beijing headquarters of Chalk Education, CEO Zhang Xiaolong, at the suggestion of several senior executives, chose Jinan as his first business trip since the epidemic. He once talked about the Analects of Confucius in an open class, saying that Confucius was "a training class for civil servants".

  Some insiders say that many public examination training institutions started in Shandong, and some sales calls are directly made to the parents of candidates, and TV advertisements tend to be broadcast on local TV stations — — Because many of the audiences of these TV stations are parents of candidates.

  Some fresh graduates are embarrassed to go home after graduation, and some training institutions have set up training courses for half a year or even a year. The conditions are simple and the fees are cheap, so that students have a place to study. More importantly, let them have a place to eat and sleep without going home to face the pressure from their parents.

  Wang Chen wants to grow up quickly. He was taken by his parents to participate in the wine bureau since childhood, and each seat has its own status and function: the main escort facing the gate is the core person on this wine table. When I was a child, Wang Chen usually sat in an unimportant position and was often arranged to pour water and toast. At that time, he thought, when he can sit in the position of main escort and lead a wine game, he will grow up.

  In order to let parents stop worrying, this time Wang Chen "has to be admitted to the exam." After class at 9 o’clock every night, he likes to go to the roadside to drink and eat barbecue to release pressure. After a few months, my old shirt could hardly be buttoned. After supper, he will go back to the classroom and continue to study by himself until after zero.


  Yu Zhi’s seat is in front of Wang Chen. She just graduated from a second school in Shandong this year, and has experienced the failure of postgraduate entrance examination and national civil service examination. She regards this provincial civil service examination in Shandong as one of her few job opportunities.

  She borrowed money from her family to sign up for this training class. Her parents disapproved of her going to work in other places: "A girl, what are you doing so far away?" She was told from an early age that civil servants or teachers are "the most suitable jobs for girls", with stable income, respect and, most importantly, time to take care of the family.

  Yu Zhihui knew very early that girls are different. When my mother was pregnant, she was tested to be a girl. My grandparents didn’t believe it until she was born. When eating, adults ask children to eat more, and some people will specifically tell her not to eat too much, because "girls are not good-looking when they are fat."

  Yu Zhihui has a round face, wears glasses and has short hair that reaches his chin. He just cut it before attending the training class. She felt that the cut was ugly and secretly cried several times under the covers. Ex-boyfriend often said that she was "short and fat". He showed his mother a photo of Yu Zhi, and got the evaluation of "dark skin and small eyes". Once she was photographed on the train, and the photos were sent to the "real candid camera group". She was very scared. The ex-boyfriend found out and said, "There are still people taking pictures like you." In elementary school, the teacher asked her to answer questions. She unconsciously wrapped her hair with her hands. The teacher said to the whole class, "Look at her, she is really smelly."

  After breaking up, Yu Zhihui’s ex-boyfriend soon got a new girlfriend, who was his colleague in the hospital, taller and thinner than her. Yu Zhi decided to lose weight. She started running every night and measured her waist and legs before going to bed. She felt it was her fault to break up because she was not good-looking enough and had no decent job.

  Make-up will make wisdom feel more confident. High school classmates and she signed up for the public examination training class and lived in the same room. The two girls will make up before class, exchange newly bought lipsticks and share which brand of eye shadow is cheap and easy to use. They complain that the distance between desks is too small, they need to cross the chair to sit down, and they can’t wear nice skirts. Students want to be beauty bloggers, and 80 lipsticks have been accumulated at home, but their parents disagree and feel "unstable".

  At home, the kitchen is the mother’s territory. She lets Wisdom learn to cook and clean the room, saying that girls must be able to do these things, or they will be "killed by their mother-in-law" after marriage. My father hardly cares about housework, and the female elders around him also say, "What will he do alone?". My mother will pinch my father to make a good meal after work, although my father will take a shower and play with his mobile phone first when he comes back, and when he sits at the table, the meal is already cold. Yu Zhihui thinks this is very disrespectful to her mother’s work. Sometimes she quarrels with her father, and her mother says that she "went to college for nothing, so she talks to your father". She turned her head and quarreled with her mother, saying that her father didn’t help the family, and her mother "deserved it."

  Yu Zhihui’s mother couldn’t afford to go to school when she was a child, so she went to work in a clothing factory early. Mother’s younger brother went to junior college and became a doctor. When she was in her forties, her mother gave birth to another boy, which finally made up for her regret and helped the family to carry on the family line. My brother is 5 years old, and all my family feel that Yu Zhi needs to find a job close to home, so that he can take care of his brother.

  "Girls should not take their work too seriously, but still have to marry a good family. Don’t work too hard." Mother said as she kneaded the minced meat into meatballs and put them into the pot one by one.

  My younger brother said he wanted to be a chef in the future because he wanted to help his mother. The mother listened and slapped her son’s ass a few times. "How hard it is for the chef to cook for others. You want to be a big official in the future and let others cook for you, okay? " She said with her son in her arms.

  For insurance, Yu Zhihui signed up for three exams, all of which are positions within the system. She feels that all the past is pushing herself in the same direction. When preparing for the exam, she would pull the rubber band that tied her hair on her wrist, and her forearm was marked with a red mark.

  There are two students in the class who have applied for the same position, but only one person has been recruited. The one with a slightly poor grade will suddenly cry when doing the problem. The classroom is on the third floor, and there is a small door leading to the outdoor stairs next to it, which was originally sealed for safety. After the class started, the seal was quickly torn off by the students who wanted to breathe. They leaned on the railing of the stairs in twos and threes, and there was a cigarette butt on the ground.

  This may be the last time for Yu Zhihui to sign up for the public examination training class. The tuition fee of nearly 7,000 yuan is not a small sum for her. Since childhood, the first thing my father did when he came home from work was to remind her to turn off the unused lights. She will buy snacks for her ex-boyfriend, but she is reluctant to buy them for herself. Sometimes she will kick her legs in bed because she missed the preferential price of several packages of melon seeds. When she was in high school, she saved 10 thousand yuan. When her parents took it away, she told her that she didn’t ask her for rent when she was in her mother’s belly. Once, my elder sister-in-law told her to "live", which means to be frugal. She suddenly felt wronged and said loudly, "How do you know I can’t live!" "

  Wang Chen told the female students around her that if they were admitted, "they could find a better object" and "they would be torn to pieces". His wife also works in the system, ranking higher than him. When he first got married, he worked in the county and his wife was in the city. His parents-in-law think he is not as good as his daughter. Later, he tried to get into the city. This time, he thought that if he was admitted to a civil servant, his parents-in-law should always "look up" to himself.


  Wang Chen’s roommate in the training class always calls him "the leader" because they work in the same place, with his roommate in the county and Wang Chen in the city. During the interview, roommates will constantly refuse to say that they don’t want to grab the limelight of "leadership".

  In his hometown, Wang Chen’s work and life are concentrated around the newly-built municipal government building. This is the best area in the whole city. The hillside behind the building is a new base. In the local area, good feng shui should have a "backing". Every weekday morning, Wang Chen walks up 17 steps with his briefcase and enters the building that looks like a "yellow" from the front — — It is said that when the building was built, the city leader’s surname was Huang. According to public information, the leader surnamed Huang was investigated for corruption and bribery in 2011 and was removed from his post.

  Wang Chen knows clearly what a job within the system can bring to himself in his hometown environment. His parents were admitted to cities from rural areas, and they entered the system in the 1980s and 1990s. The house at home was changed from a bungalow to a unit dormitory, and then to a commercial house of more than 100 square meters now. The furniture is carved in mahogany, and there is a closed fish tank more than one meter long in the living room.

  Throughout Wang Chen’s childhood, his parents’ brothers and sisters would live in his house and share a bed with him in order to study in the city. He knew at an early age that his parents were the people who contributed the most to the whole family and the people with the highest status. He feels that in a family, whoever pays more should listen to whom. "This is a natural thing."

  Wang Chen’s child is two years old this year. His parents have already helped him buy a house in his hometown, next to the community where he lives. He and his wife are busy at work and have no time to cook, so they take their children to their parents’ house to eat every day. In the local area, Wang Chen is a typical example of a successful career and a happy family. He is a son, husband and father that outsiders can’t find fault with.

  He feels that "every decision needs to sacrifice a lot of other things." Some college students have become lawyers, and Wang Chen is envious. He feels that the other party is always improving himself, and he is "only weight". Writing materials in the office every day makes him feel bored. "Going back and forth is those words."

  In the public examination interview training class, Wang Chen learned a lot of "rules": when interviewing, he should sit in the first third of the chair with his hands flat. You can’t dye your hair, tattoo or wear ornaments. It’s best not to talk about your experiences abroad. You can’t say that human beings can’t control artificial intelligence and can’t have "incorrect values". Can’t laugh. Interview is the last stage of the civil service examination.


  The night before a career preparation exam, Yu Zhihui suddenly decided not to go. She felt that she couldn’t pass the exam and didn’t want to do the job. She told her parents about this decision and was spanked several times by her mother. But she "just doesn’t want to go".

  She doesn’t know what she wants to do. When she volunteered for the college entrance examination, her parents reported all her volunteers as education or normal school, but she was eventually transferred to the major of network and new media. She feels that she has hardly learned anything during her four years of college life, and it is difficult to have alternative employment opportunities. After graduation, in addition to working in the system, many students in the class went to be content examiners of Internet companies.

  Almost all the friends around have entered the system to work. Sometimes guests come to Wisdom’s home, and the adults sit together to educate her, as if it were a race, and she was the last one who had not crossed the finish line. The friend who was admitted was also anxious for her, and specially asked her out to "wake her up." My aunt wanted to introduce her to the people around her who were preparing for the exam. She hid in the toilet until her aunt left. Once, Yu Zhihui and her father were having dinner at her elder sister-in-law’s house. She said irritably to her elder sister-in-law, "Do you want to take the exam yourself?". I was so angry that my father didn’t finish his meal and dragged her home.

  Adults think she is "disobedient". Father sometimes smokes on the rattan chair in the yard, and Yu Zhihui watches TV on the sofa in the living room. They often sit back to back through a wall and don’t talk. Yu Zhihui hates her father smoking at home, but every time she says it, she gets a response: "How can you talk to adults like this?". She didn’t understand: "Isn’t there anything wrong with adults?"

  Mother hopes that Wisdom will dress like a girl, and let her wear skirts, tight tops and high heels that are above her knees. I also need to learn to sing and dance. In the future, if the unit has the opportunity to show its talents, the leaders will also use it. But she prefers to wear a wide T-shirt and wide-leg pants. Sometimes when she goes out with makeup, her father will say to her mother, "Look, she’s dressed like a ghost." She sneaked when her father was not at home.

  My mother only goes to primary school, and what she reads most often is books about dream interpretation and fortune telling. There is a small house dedicated to the "immortals of all walks" at home. Yu Zhi laughed at his mother’s "feudal superstition".

  But in wisdom, "I will ask God for help when I am afraid". She won’t cut her nails before going away, and she won’t wash her hair the night before the exam, because she heard that "knowledge will be washed away." Grandma told her that she had nightmares and told them to the Western Wall. The Western Wall at home listened to her many nightmares.

  Father thinks beans and meat are expensive. She said, "Is it interesting for a big man to care about these?" She doesn’t like her mother to use her slippers and towels when she helps her brother take a bath. But she will seriously tell her family that in the future, the property at home will be left to her younger brother. Anyway, if she is married, she will be "someone else’s family."

  Zhang Xiaolong once said that because of the low admission rate of public examinations, most of the students who signed up actually failed. He doesn’t want to be admitted to the civil service as the only goal of the course. He feels that the most important thing that students learn in training is not skills, but knowledge and study habits. In recent years, he has opened various types of open online classes, focusing on philosophy, The Analects of Confucius and current affairs. He has been saying in class that growth is more important than success.

  "The system is like a besieged city." Some students in the class said so. The desks on both sides of the classroom are directly against the wall, and the student numbers are posted on the wall. The aisle in the middle of each row of desks can only accommodate one person.

  The teachers of the training class have seen many students who have not "landed" after years of continuous public examinations. They think that in fact, civil servants may not be suitable for everyone. If they are not admitted, they can try to find other jobs. An interview teacher was originally a civil servant, but he "didn’t like the unchangeable life" and wanted to buy a house on his own. The income level in the system could not meet his needs, so he resigned.

  Yu Zhihui doesn’t think he has any other choice. After giving up the exam, she didn’t know what to do when she woke up every morning, so she had to play with her mobile phone until her mother came home to cook. She feels depressed at home and doesn’t know where to go. "I dare not take that step." Yu Zhihui wore pajamas and collapsed on the sofa. "At least it’s good to have a place to live at home and someone to cook."

  The other side of home

  Yu Feng, Yu Zhi’s father, likes to smoke by the fish tank in the yard and watch the fish jump around. He can smoke one pack a day. He is an accountant in a local private ore factory. "He just keeps a running account for his boss, so long as he can understand it." He can get 4,000 yuan a month. This is almost all the source of income for the whole family. His last job was as a warehouse keeper in glass bottle factory. He worked for several months and left without receiving his salary. "It’s hard to find a job at this age." Yu Feng threw ash on the ground, and his son’s toys were scattered beside him.

  He learned to smoke at the age of 15, when he just graduated from junior high school and worked in a state-owned auto parts factory. When entering the factory for the exam, more than half of them are the children of the old workers in the factory. Some people can’t answer the questions, so they smoke for everyone in the examination room, and the examiner doesn’t care. At that time, "everyone loves to run to the enterprise and be a worker." Some state-owned enterprises also have special faucets, and soda will flow out at a fixed time every day.

  Yu Feng thought that the days after that would be as sweet as soda. At first, he worked as a blacksmith in the factory, and only his eyes and teeth were white. My elder sister was distressed, so she helped him find a relationship and transferred to the quality inspection department. It was not until 2001 that he began to sell, and Yu Feng’s monthly income only exceeded 1,000 yuan.

  Not long after marriage, the clothing factory where my wife was located went bankrupt, and her wife didn’t even get the severance pay. Later, she could only help in some private clothing factories, charging by piece, and earning thirty or forty yuan a day. For many years, my wife who worked in a clothing factory never wore new clothes. She took the defective products from the factory home for the children to wear. Sometimes children want to eat watermelon and durian, but Yu Feng is reluctant to buy them. In the playground, he would tell his son, "Don’t play with things that cost money." A few years ago, he bought lottery tickets every week, always wanting to "win the big one", but the reality is that the winning prize has never surpassed 50 yuan’s. In 2008, Yu Feng and his wife moved from the village to their present house, which cost 197,000 yuan and 120,000 yuan was borrowed.

  Several lights in the house are bare bulbs, the sink is made of cement, the tiles on the bathroom wall are only attached to the top of the head, the ceiling above the toilet is exposed with steel bars, and the spices used in the kitchen are piled up on the ground below the stove — — In this family, practicality comes first. The ubiquitous word "Fu" is one of the few decorations.

  A small bungalow in the yard was built by Yu Feng for his brother. My brother was born with cerebral palsy, he can’t walk, he can’t take a bath by himself, and he listens to the radio in a small room all day. Yu Feng’s mother and brother lived with his family until his son was born, and the family couldn’t take care of it. The elder sister took her mother and brother over. Yu Feng always felt that his elder sister and elder brother-in-law were his benefactors. He never dared to refute what they said, "even if it was wrong."

  He was particularly angry when wisdom contradicted his aunt. "She doesn’t want to think about it. Without her aunt, how can our family survive?" Yu Feng said. Yu Feng doesn’t like talking to his daughter. In Feng’s memory, his father didn’t talk to himself very much.

  He calculated that the annual expenses of a family of four need about 80,000 yuan, and the income now is far from enough. A few years ago, the state-owned enterprise where Yu Feng was located was restructured, and the number of employees dropped from more than 600 to more than 100. After the restructuring, he never let go of any personal items on his desk for a long time, and he "has no sense of belonging psychologically." On the wall of the living room, there are several animal patterns for my son to read, and the full name of the factory is printed on the tape. This is almost all the proof that he has worked for 30 years. Later, the enterprise closed down because of poor management.

  Sometimes at the summit, he thought that he would go to Xinjiang and Tibet after retirement in a few years, but he knew in his heart that "strength is not allowed." "People don’t just live for themselves and can’t do whatever they want." He smiled. "Let’s just think about it, ordinary people."

  Yu Feng doesn’t want to let Yu Zhi go his own way. He hopes that his daughter will find a stable job and will not be at risk of unemployment at any time like he and his wife. Yu Feng’s elder sister felt that he was ashamed to say these words in front of reporters and scolded him. Yu Feng didn’t pay attention. Yu Zhihui, who had been sitting there without talking, suddenly ran into the room and cried.


  On August 29th, 2020, all the civil service examinations in Shandong Province ended, and Wang Chen took the first place in this position. In the future, his monthly salary will increase by 1700 yuan, and he will be transferred to a more ideal department.

  According to his plan, when he has accumulated enough experience and resources in the system, he will switch to become a lawyer, open his own law firm and live in a bigger city.

  He has no other requirements for his children, the only one is that he can’t accept children dink. He doesn’t want to be lonely in his later years.

  Yu Zhihui failed the written test. After the public examination, she often dreams that she is answering questions. There were so many questions that she couldn’t finish them, and finally she woke up in a panic.

  Later, my elder sister-in-law helped her find a job as a substitute in primary school, teaching Chinese in grade one, with a monthly salary of more than 2,000 yuan. If you want to become a regular, you still need to pass the exam. That primary school is Yu Zhi’s alma mater. She and the female teacher who once called herself "smelly" became colleagues.

  She always felt that she was "unworthy to be a teacher". Like the training class, the primary school students in the class share a long table with the words "Be an excellent baby" written in big blue letters on the wall. She is not sure how "excellent" she can make these children, so that she can have enough courage to choose freedom in the face of the future and bear the ensuing price.

  (In the article, Wang Chen, Yu Zhihui and Yu Feng are pseudonyms. Han Meng, Tian Yu and Shao Zhen also contributed to this article)

  Zhongqing Daily Zhongqing Net reporter Xuan Zengxing Source: China Youth Daily