Teen idol joins millions taking China's grueling exam

Fans follow wholesome boy-band member

BEIJING (CNN) - Millions of Chinese high schoolers will take the country's grueling two-day college entrance examination starting Wednesday, competing to get into the country's top universities.

But of the nine million sitting China's toughest exam -- known as the gaokao -- one 17-year-old stands out: Wang Junkai, lead singer of China's most popular boyband, TFBoys.

Picture Justin Bieber taking his SATs and you're halfway there.

Unlike the bad boy Bieber, the Chinese idol has amassed a huge crowd of fans for his wholesome, boy-from-next-door image. The biggest gossip of him is his performance at school.

Wang has reportedly been accepted by a well-known acting school, but he still has to reach a certain score in the exams.

In 2015, Wang entered the Guinness World Record for the single most retweets post on Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, for a video of him singing on his 15th birthday was shared over 42 million times.

Two years on it's now smashed that record, having been shared an enormous 350 million times.

Wang, who comes from Chongqing in western China, has retreated from his singing career in order study for the exam, but it hasn't affected the amount of attention he receives from his millions of ardent fans.

"Everyone who's been through gaokao knows how stressful it is... and our young gentleman @Wang Junkai is still an ordinary student under the façade of a celebrity," said a post on Wang Junkai's official fan club page on Weibo,

When the young star took his high school entrance examination three years ago, the hashtag "good luck" had 170 million views on Weibo.

And this year, under the hashtag "Good luck to Wang Junkai Gaokao 2017," Weibo has been flooded with more than one million posts from fans, media and celebrities ahead of the exam.

For generations of Chinese, a college education was their one ticket to success and gaokao day is the culmination of years of schooling, memorization and stress.

So as not to disturb the exam takers, construction work is halted near examination halls and traffic is diverted.

Study group

As well as wishing him luck, Wang's supporters have found other ways to rally behind their idol.

A group of more than 100 fans, made up of experienced school teachers and college students from prestigious schools, has been compiling exam preparation material for Wang and posting it on social media, Youzi, leader of the tutor community told CNN.

Since last August, in over 180 posts, they've shared a mass of gaokao tutorials covering a range of subjects.

"As someone who underwent Gaokao before, I want to keep him company through this important life event," she said.

She added they plan to keep the tutorials open to the public to help other gaokao candidates.

Wang-mania

Wang's fans are known for making their mark.

Last year, in a move that spurred some controversy online, Chinese fans celebrated the teen sensation's 17th birthday with a self-funded global advertising campaign.

Digital billboards displaying birthday wishes could be found in New York, Tokyo, Paris, Seoul and the Icelandic capital Reyjavik.

However, veteran celebrity publicist Chen Yinzheng thinks the fan culture in China has evolved.

"As the idols cast positive influence on fans, fans are doing the same in return by helping others," he said.

As a precaution, his official fan club has posted notices urging people not to follow Wang to the test center or do anything disruptive. Wang's agents said they didn't want to draw attention to his final school exam either.

While Wang will be the only megastar taking the exam, his post-exam game plan will most likely strike a chord with his nine million fellow test takers.

"Like anyone else, I just want to have a good sleep," said the 17-year-old.


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