The golden statue of Confucius sits serenely and benevolently at the Wen Miao Temple in Shanghai. Various gifts – fruits, sweets, and other offerings – are arranged neatly and respectfully by those who come to pay respects and to make requests. The requests, written on small red banners, flutter in the breeze in the courtyard like a massive migration of butterflies lifted by the clouds of incense. Most are prayers for success in studies and school: the Gaokao, China’s notoriously challenging college entrance exam, had occurred just a few weeks prior to our visit in late June.
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