|BEIJING, June 8, 2018 -- China's annual college entrance exam began Thursday as about 9.75 million students sit the all-important exam needed to pursue their higher education dreams.
The exam, known as the gaokao in Chinese, has changed the lives of tens of millions of people and opened up China's education since it was resumed in 1977.
The exam was disrupted by the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and its reintroduction by then-leader Deng Xiaoping was a clear signal that times had changed.
It was not easy to organize a nationwide exam in a country where many people still lacked living materials in 1977. The papers that would have been used to print the selected works of Mao Zedong were later used to print test papers for examinees.
In 1977, the exam was taken by around 5.7 million people, including high school graduates, farmers and factory workers.
"Our future is closely associated with the times via the gaokao," said Zhao Zhengguo, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Zhao was a factory worker in central China's Hunan Province in 1977 and was admitted to study physics at the University of Science and Technology of China after completing the gaokao in 1978.
The resumption of the gaokao showed the country was resolved to reform its talent selection system.
All students, no matter rich or poor, are welcome to take the exam.
Like Zhao, Zhang Pingwen, a professor with the School of Mathematical Sciences of Peking University, still remembers his childhood hawking ice cream on the street to help his family.