2017-09-07 13:57:39 Haley Liu
Every year in late August and early September, some Chinese students are required to undergo military training before the start of term - a tradition that dates back decades. This year, a so-called "magical item" that allegedly helps students to perform better has flooded Chinese online shopping website Taobao. This has even become a heated topic on social media, with the hashtag #magicalitemformilitarytraining having been viewed 490,000 times.
Military training for students was introduced in 1995, and became compulsory in 2011 for all students about to begin senior middle school and their first year of university. The gruelling routine is not to make students battle-ready, but to instil discipline, collectivism and a sense of patriotism, thus toughening up "little emperors" as the spoiled youth are generally known.
The training is mostly held in schools and universities, though some are held in military camps. Students are required to stand at attention in sweltering heat, sing "Unity is Strength" and other military anthems, and march and turn in formation. Another important training is to fold quilts as neat and compact as a block of tofu.
The "magical item" mentioned at the beginning is a quilt folder, similar to the laundry flip-folder used by Dr. Sheldon Cooper in U.S. sitcom The Big Bang Theory. By just a few quick moves, the folder will turn a messy quilt into one that is perfectly folded.
Sheldon Cooper shows his flip-folder.
Six steps to perfectly fold your fluffy quilt.
The item costs only several pounds and is light to carry, hence its immense popularity among students. According to Taobao statistics, some stores have sold thousands of them within a month.
But just having a quilt-folder is far from enough, and Chinese students have other "magical items" to help them ease the pain during military training. Some can be bought from stores, some are their own creative inventions.
Li Yuanhao shows how to use sanitary pads as insoles. [photo creadit: cqcb.com]
1. Sanitary pads
A student named Li Yuanhao has earned 600 yuan (70 pounds) in just two days by selling sanitary pads to junior male students before military training. Compared with regular insoles, sanitary pads are more sweat-absorbing and smell-proof.
Clothes with fans.
2. Clothes with fans
Is it too gruelling to stand at attention in the burning sun? This little invention is easy to make and good to use for students, but hard to detect by training instructors. All you need are two brushless fans, a two-metre-long cable, and two batteries.
Vest with water bag.
3. Vest with water bag
This is much more accessible than clothes with fans. You just need to pour cold water into the bag and tie the bag on your vest.
4. Facial cleanser and sunscreen
Everyone knows these are essential for outdoor activities.
5. Cooling towel
Made of polyvinyl acetate, a cooling towel promises to beat the heat when dampened and draped around the neck. Simply soak it in water, wring it out, snap it a few times and voila - a cool and refreshing towel to ease your pains away.
Patriotic and military anthems are the best relaxation during training breaks. With an amplifier at hand, one can easily beat other rivals, at least in terms of volume.
Students are not allowed to leave the military camp, and for many of them it’s their first time away from their parents for such long periods, so it's only natural that they’ll miss home. Playing cards is a good way to kill time, make new friends and get rid of homesickness.
8. Sleeping bag
Dozens of people sleeping in one room is commonplace in military camps, but it might be suffering for some people, especially during summer. Sleeping bags will allow one to sleep on the roof or in the corridor.
9. Mosquito coil
Military camps are mostly located in the outskirts of a city, and are surrounded by trees. So it wouldn't be surprising to find a lot of mosquitos at night time - that's when a mosquito coil comes in handy.
Chinese society and social values have radically changed since military training was introduced in the 1990s. Now an increasing number of parents and students favour abolishing the training due to a major disconnect between martial standards and the materialism of today's students.