Graduation Day: What to Wear?

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Peking University kicked off a design contest last week, asking its students to come up with a traditional Chinese graduation gown to replace the western robes students wear every July. Like the newfound popularity of Confucianism and the proliferation of old-style teahouses, the contest is part of a revival of traditional culture in China. The China Daily reported that college students in China wore different styles of graduation gowns until 1994, when the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council pushed for western-style gowns in all colleges. Of all the designs, students are apparently rooting for the “hanfu” style, which dates back to the Han Dynasty. The confusing part of this design (scroll to the bottom) is why the square cap—which, in my opinion, is the most unattractive feature of the western graduation outfit—has been retained!

Beida isn’t the only place where graduation attire sparks heated discussion. For weeks before my graduation last June, fellow journalism students produced an enormous amount of internal spam, arguing the merits of renting traditional but pricey cap & gown sets verses the more economical option of digging up something black from our own closets (one student proposed this near-perfect compromise). In the end, nonconformity prevailed as 60 students, some clad in traditional black robes, others in black t-shirts, walked away with the same degree. What better way for students to make use of their education than with a feisty debate?