1 in 10,000

In this picture, Matilda is ice-skating on the ‘no name’ lake in Beida (Peking University – Beida is an abbreviation of the Chinese equivalent ‘Beijing Daxue’). She is in her first postgraduate year there, studying Chinese language and linguistics – her ambition is to teach Mandarin. She certainly does a good job correcting my more embarrassing mistakes.

Students at Beida and its neighbour Tsinghua (Hu Jintao’s alma-mater) really are the cream of the crop. The stats change from place to place and time to time, but roughly 1 in 10,000 students in any given province score high enough on their gao kao (the insanely pressured be-all-and-end-all exam at the end of high school) to go there. Terrifying.

Matilda (true to her namesake?) is a big Chomsky fan, and recently recommended to me Kant’s ‘Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime’ (‘Des Suhonen und Erbabenen’), which proposes a theory of climate influencing personality. Also terrifying.


  1. Chomskyites have a habit of assimilating people … they’re like the Borgs in Star Trek.

  2. ah…….in fact , my teachers , most of them ,who are fans of Chomsky. I just was assimilated by them.

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