Chinese men and boys don qipaos for students' good luck during gaokao exam

A brother of a teenager taking her gaokao exam wears a qipao to wish her good luck.
PHOTO: Weibo

China's most famous traditional dress, the qipao, is in vogue this week as many mothers and even some fathers begin wearing the attire to bring a bit of luck to the millions of teenagers taking the life-altering national gaokao university entrance exam.

While women often wear the dresses during the annual one-size-fits-all test, more men have also got into the spirit this year.

A series of videos of fathers, teachers and even siblings wearing the tightly-fitted dress became popular in mainland Chinese media and online platforms over the past few days.

A man smiles as he shows off his red qipao.
PHOTO: Douyin

The men in the videos also wear the dresses tight, providing a bit of levity ahead of the anxiety-inducing exam.

The qipao, a beautifully coloured dress with decorously side slits, represents the Chinese idiom qi kai de sheng, which means "success at the first attempt".

It is often worn at important ceremonies or events to symbolise good luck.

"We hope that the students in their final year fulfil their dreams during the gaokao. We hope they 'win victories on their first attempt'," said one father from Dazhou in southwest China's Sichuan province who wore a flower-print silk qipao in a video on Dazhou Television.

In Xian, in northwestern China's Shaanxi province, a younger brother wore a red qipao on the testing day to support his elder sister, according to Changsha Television.

"The dress was meant for his dad, but he was a bit shy," said the boy's mother surnamed Yang.

The father paid his son 10 yuan (US$1.50) (S$2) to wear the garb on his behalf so his daughter would still receive good luck.

A principal gives a speech to his students while wearing a qipao.
PHOTO: Douyin

In Anshan, Liaoning province in northeastern China, a male school principal dressed in a qipao on Sunday (June 5) and gave a speech hoping his students would be successful during the exams, according to Feidian Video.

Showcasing a scarlet velvet qipao, the man told his students: "I have never worn clothes meant for a woman, but today I wear this dress for you! I want to wish you victory in the coming exams."

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A record 11.93 million students across China registered for this year's gaokao, which for decades has been a vital factor for Chinese youth's future career prospects.

The test is being administered from June 7 to 8 this year, except for the city of Shanghai, which delayed the exams by a month because most residents were stuck in their homes during a strict lockdown in April and May to curb a rampant Covid-19 outbreak.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.