China

Complex 'character test' facing tardy Chinese students

The character 'Biang'
Image caption Creative or painful: is 'biang' the hardest Chinese word to write?

A teacher in China has invented a taxing new way of preventing students from turning up late for his classes.

Wang Sijun, who teaches at a university in Sichuan province, has been giving tardy students a complex character to write out on paper 1,000 times.

The Chinese character for "biang", is made up of 56 pen strokes.

The word holds no meaning but local media said Mr Wang drew inspiration for it from the name of a noodle dish he had while visiting Shaanxi province.

The Chengdu Economic Daily newspaper reported that two unfortunate students had received the penalty so far.

The first student said she could not continue writing the word after the 200th time as it became "so tiring".

In the end, she had asked Prof Wang to commute the punishment, and promised that she would never be late for class again.

The second latecomer volunteered instead, to draw one hundred Terracotta Warriors, also a specialty from Shaanxi. He took more than four hours to finish his drawings.

'Creative' form of punishment

Chinese characters are often rated among the most difficult languages in the world to write and master.

They are made up of simple strokes, variations of eight basic ones, which are combined into characters. Those in turn, are used to form words and sentences.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Students often practise handwriting exercises to master Chinese writing

Experts often say that the only effective way to master the art of writing Chinese is by repetition.

So students frequently practise handwriting exercises, writing out multiple lines of Chinese characters by hand.

Following news of the professor's punishment, the "biang" character has spread widely online.

On Chinese social media, many netizens exchanged praise for the professor's "creative" form of punishment.

"One look at that and I won't ever be late for class again," commented one user on popular micro-blogging platform Weibo.

"This sounds like an interesting and refreshing mode of punishment," said Luying Yang, a teacher on Weibo.

Another said: "The professor was not asking for too much from his students to not arrive late for class - so I think this was actually quite a reasonable penalty. The word looks painful to write but it was not an outrageous punishment overall."

Mei Wei Zhu said the punishment could have been worse: "Imagine if he made them write out their punishment in traditional calligraphy."