Guoliang Xue: Brief Biography
Unconventional Path to College:
I was born and raised in a small town named Gaomi in northern China. Few people knew about my hometown until Mr. Yan Mo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012.

I started elementary school in 1966, the year when Chairman Mao started the Cultural Revolution in China. The traditional annual college extrance examination was abolished, and the traditional 12-year pre-college education was shortened to 10-years. I always had plenty of time, as there was not much homework to do. I used to recite the texts we learned, as well as the poems of Chairman Mao (Ze-Dong Mao) and those from the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, without a good understanding of their meanings. One of my hobbies at that time was to study the patterns of the stars in the sky during the summer nights.

In 1975, I left high school to work as a middle school teacher in the countryside. There was no electricity in the village. The standard of living was low, but the people around me were warm-hearted. Again, I had plenty of time. Instead of wasting all of my time, I spent the evening hours trying to complete my high school education via self-study.

On September 9, 1976, Chairman Mao passed away. The Cultural Revolution ended. Mr. Xiaoping Deng resumed traditional examinations based on academics, the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, which has continued to the present day. The first such examination after the Cultural Revolution took place in December 1977. There was no limit on the age or official educational background of examinees. The youngest were in their early teens and the oldest were in their late thirties. Exam questions were designed by individual provinces. In 1977, the total number of candidate students for the national college entrance exam was as many as 5.7 million, with only 272,971 students being admitted. The admission rate of 4.8% was the lowest in the history of China.

With only one year of high school education, I also participated in the entrance exam in 1977. There was no exam site in my commune. I rode a bike to the exam site about 25 km away to which I was assigned. There were no hotel/motel rooms. About 30 people (all men) slept in one classroom, on the dirt floor. It was a unique experience. I knew I did not do well, as I realized the mistakes I made in math hours after the exam.

I luckily became a member of the Class of 1977. The Department of Mathematics of Qufu Teachers College (which later became Qufu Normal University) was given a quota of 100 students for the Class of 1977. After selecting 98 students with high scores, the recruiters decided to pick the last two students among the youngest who scored high enough. One of the last two was me! We entered college in March 1978. I was the youngest in my class (17 years old). Some of my classmates were 34 at that time.

For the first time in my life, I did not have enough time. There was so much for me to learn and to catch up. I was thirst for knowledge, and did a lot of extra study that was not required by the university. For example, I solved more than 4000 problems from G.N. Berman's "A Collection of Problems on a Course of Mathematical Analysis". I was told that success relies on 1% of luck and 99% of hard work.

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