Girl power on a male campus

Giving the ‘V for victory’/secretly-dissing-this-person sign (as far as I know, those are the two options for what it means in Britain, not sure elsewhere) is Zhu Hong. She’s a bubbly personality, majoring in hydraulic engineering at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. ‘Mickey’/having-the-mickey-taken-out-of-her (oh public school, I miss you so) is the more bashful Shu Longmei, taking civic engineering. Does every Tsinghua student study engineering, you wonder? Pretty much, it’s China’s equivalent of MIT. And how many of them are girls? Not too many.

These two, and others I’ve spoken to, guesstimate a 3:1 m-f ratio here at Tsinghua, and know of one class of forty with just one girl. To them, this is all perfectly natural: Hong tells me technical subjects like engineering are “xinku” (“tough” or “hard work”) and attract the guys – I think that’s more pride at her own merits than sign of a gender-biased society. Hong (or ‘Tracy’) is a loud and bold Southerner, unruffled as the ‘minority’ gender on campus and brimming with infectious self-confidence.Has she picked up a boyfriend in this 3:1 world? “Bu yong!” “Don’t need one!”

It seems that the campus buzz-cuts are scared off by long-locked classmates who know more about suspension bridges and treble-pulleyed-pressure-gears (if such a thing exists) than Tang dynasty poetry like the pretty girls at neighbouring Beida study. In other words, the image is that Tsinghua’s girls aren’t exactly Zhang Ziyis. Another ‘engineering girl’ I chatted with tells me a long-standing student inside-joke: “There are three types of people: guys, girls and Tsinghua girls.” Sometimes, they add a fourth: “guys who are the boyfriends of Tsinghua girls”.

This is all tongue-in-cheek of course, and there’s a campus tradition to match it. Tsinghua students celebrate ‘Girl’s day’ every March 7th (the day before Mother’s Day “International Women’s Day, incidentally also the day of the February Revolution of 1917 in Russia” – thanks Chris!; ‘Guy’s day’ is October 2nd, the day after National Day). In the run-up to Girl’s day there’s a secret-Santa-esque ballot by which each girl is alloted a secret admirer who on the day showers her with little gifts and attentions. The girl who told me this exploited a loophole and had three such admirers last year. Not a bad life…


  1. Ummm, your dates? March 7 is the day before International Women’s Day (incidentally also the day of the February Revolution of 1917 in Russia), not Mothers’ Day.

  2. haha wonderful. listening to Beethoven in a 荒原. perhaps i should try Fudan…

  3. Funny — the joke when I was at Beida was that the female student body was 北大荒 (“The Great Northern Desolation”), while Tsinghua girls were 背多份 (homophone for ‘Beethoven,’ literally “would score higher from behind”).

  4. My university, NCKU@TW: male students: feamle students=2:1!
    When I was an undergraduate student in Math dept., the ratio of male student:female student= 4:1. Math dept. accepts 50 students every year.

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