Later that afternoon.
In the suburbs.
At the Beijing college entrance examination's question setting team quarters.
Outside, Pan Yang was waiting to receive him. "Teacher Zhang, you're here."
"Dean Pan." Zhang Ye got out of the car and went over to him. "This place is really far away, where are we? It's almost near Beihe Province already, isn't it?"
Pan Yang laughed. "It's close. This is just a simple place and the scenery isn't too bad either. The two small buildings on the hill are also very well-equipped with all sorts of facilities, so the question setting team always comes and gathers at this place every year." Pausing, Pan Yang stretched out his hand. "Please hand over your cell phone and any forms of communication devices to me first. There will be someone here to specifically keep them for you. Oh, do you see that front gate over there? We'll go inside from there and up the hill, but once we're past that gate, we won't be out anymore until after the college entrance exam is over. If you have to make any calls or settle anything, then do it now while you still can."
Zhang Ye pouted. "Do we have to be that strict? Don't you know my character well enough? Would I possibly leak any questions? I still have a lot of work to handle at the television station. If I'm not around or unable to be contacted, I'm afraid that they won't be able to handle it."
"These are the rules, it's the same for me." Pan Yang threw his hands up.
Zhang Ye blinked a few times. "But didn't you call me with your cell phone today?"
Pan Yang smiled and said, "I am one of the supervisors of the Mathematics question setting team. Surely I need to hold on to a cell phone so that I can communicate with the Higher Education Entrance Examination Board and the other leaders. Besides, when I go back up to the office building, I will still need to surrender my cell phone, so it's the same for everyone."
"Sure, fine then." Zhang Ye took out his phone.
"If there's really a special case, then we will talk about it again," Pan Yang explained.
The hill was not high.
After driving for a few minutes, they reached the halfway point of the hill where two office buildings were situated at. Looking at the hilltop, there seemed to be two pavilions up top too and the breeze up here was very refreshing and cool.
All the Chinese Literature, Mathematics, English Language and other subjects' question setting teams were situated in Office Building 1, while Building 2 was designated as the dormitory. After the car was parked on the hillside, Pan Yang alighted together with Zhang Ye. They went straight into Office Building 1 and headed to the Mathematics question setting team's office. There were quite a few people inside and even a hint of the smell of cigarettes. Most of them were gathered in smaller groups and talking away. Some of them were discussing the exam questions. There were even a few who got into an argument. The atmosphere was very tense because everyone was rushing to get the questions out before Monday's deadline, which still had to pass the Board's approval. They carried a lot of stress, as increasing the difficulty along with creativity was nowhere near as easy as it seemed.
When Zhang Ye came inside, the entire office looked at him at once.
"Whoa, Teacher Zhang is here?"
"Hello, Teacher Zhang."
" I've heard a lot about you."
"Hur hur, we're finally seeing him in person now."
Everyone obviously knew that Zhang Ye would be here today.
Most of them were people Zhang Ye did not know, nor had he seen them before. But even though he didn't know them, it seemed like they knew him very well. Almost every one of them greeted Zhang Ye, with a few of those who specialized in the field of math research pulling him aside for a chat.
On the Mathematics team, Zhang Ye was rather well respected. After all, the global mathematical conjecture—Dale's Conjecture—was solved by Zhang Ye. It was something that many mathematicians looked up to very highly. Zhang Ye was also one of the few world-class mathematicians China could count as theirs, so he was considered to be in the Chinese Mathematics world's elite. When Pan Yang invited Zhang Ye to the Mathematics question setting team, no one had any objections to it and felt that it was only right to do so. No matter how old Zhang Ye was, his standard in mathematics was there for all to see. In the group of around eight people, even if you put them together, including Peking University School of Mathematical Sciences Dean Pan, their total mathematics standards could probably still not match up to Zhang Ye, so who would not be convinced?
Soon, everyone got down to business.
"This question won't make the cut."
"Yeah, this question has little value and the direction the Board has given us is to not include something like it."
"Most of the questions we've been working on for the past month has gone up in smoke, hasn't it? Hai."
"It's pointless to complain, let's just continue on from here. The question I showed to you just now—I think it's has a certain degree of difficulty, can you guys take a look to see if there're any loopholes in it?"
"This won't do."
"Oh? What's the problem?"
"It'd be fine if it was short answer, but this is a multiple choice question. With the answer options available, it would be too easy even though this question might fit better in the first part of the section."
"Hai, it's really too difficult to make something and we don't even have enough time."
"Adding up all the time we have, it's just less than three days time."
"The other question setting teams are probably scrambling as well."
Zhang Ye got into work mode very quickly. He did not say anything and only listened to what everyone was discussing with regard to the questions. He had to familiarize himself with the work first, such as the scope of the question and its presentation, etc. Occasionally, he would ask Pan Yang or the other colleagues about his doubts so that he could quickly understand this world's college entrance exam questions. In the end, he realized that this world's college entrance exam questions and scope were largely the same as his previous world's. The only differences were the points' allocation and the order of the sections. With his current knowledge, he felt more assured.
Zhang Ye said, "Dean Pan, I would like to take a few exams and go back back to my dorm to read up on them. I would also like to have the past rough draft of the exam that was sketched out by our team."
Pan Yang said, "Sure, they're all available."
A young team member said, "Professor Zhang, we're depending on you this time."
Zhang Ye quickly denied that and waved his hands. "I'm only here to support."
But Pan Yang said, "Don't think of just being the support. The Math team is really going to depend on you for the questions. I've already discussed this with everyone beforehand. The creation of the questions will be mainly led by you."
"Huh?" Zhang Ye said, "Why would I be in charge? Shouldn't the bulk of the questions be coming from you guys while I just need to handle the more difficult questions?"
Pan Yang smiled. "The name Zhang Ye reverberates throughout the entire mathematics field. Since you have joined the Mathematics question setting team, how could anyone else be in charge of the exam? No one should be in charge you, and no one would do so either, so let's not try to be unconventional. Your name will be submitted and made public as the head of the Mathematics examination question setting team. For the majority of the exam, most of the questions will be set by you. I've already sought approval from the Board and they too are saying that's how it should be done."
Zhang Ye said, "You're really ordering me about now, aren't you? If I have to set even half of all these questions, wouldn't that take too much effort? Besides, I still have to go to the Chinese Literature team's office."
A Mathematics team member was taken aback. "Why are you going to the Chinese Literature team's office?"
Zhang Ye said, "I've also agreed to help out with the Chinese Literature exam's question setting team."
Someone said in a speechless manner, "You can even make Chinese Literature exam questions?"
Pan Yang: "…"
The other team members: "…"
F**k! Why couldn't he set the Chinese Literature exam questions? These mathematicians were suddenly reminded that Zhang Ye was not just a mathematician, he was also an official lecturer at Peking University's Chinese Department. It wouldn't be strange that the Chinese Literature examination question setting team would look for him to help them. Moreover, thinking about it now, Zhang Ye was also very well versed in history, so it would also have been normal if the History examination question setting team wanted him. Professor Zhang was someone who was totally different from the mathematicians like them who spent all their lives learning about math and teaching. Zhang Ye's path ahead was…much broader than theirs!
Pan Yang said, "Then you should arrange your schedule. I don't care about what the Chinese Literature team does, but over here at the Mathematics team, we must definitely finish on time."
Zhang Ye said, "OK, I will do my best. But first let me go and take a look at the Chinese Literature team."
Pan Yang nodded. "Fine. Get yourself familiarized with the work first. We'll meet here again tomorrow morning before 9 AM. We'll continue discussing the questions at that time."
"Sure, I'll try to come up with a few questions tonight as well." After saying that, Zhang Ye excused himself and left.
He asked around for where the Chinese Literature team was located and then went to find the place. He was planning to make some introductions there first and get a few copies of their exams to research.
The Chinese Literature team office door was open.
Inside, there were slightly less than ten people discussing the exam. However, it did not seem as intense as the discussion over at the Mathematics team. Everyone spoke softer and it also quieter in here.
When Zhang Ye stepped in, he immediately noticed someone familiar, an old acquaintance whom he enjoyed a good relationship with. "Teacher Su!"
Peking University Chinese Department Teacher Su Na suddenly turned her head, looking surprised. "Teacher Zhang?"
"You're here too?" Zhang Ye thought for a bit but realized it wasn't that surprising. Peking University's Chinese Department was ranked number one in the entire country, so it wasn't that unexpected to have a Chinese Department teacher here.
When the others heard the commotion, they also looked over.
Isn't that Zhang Ye?
Everyone in the Chinese Literature team was stunned!
Su Na immediately came over to welcome him. "What are you doing here?"
Zhang Ye smiled and said, "I'm helping out at the Mathematics question setting team, so I'm here. Oh, is the chief of the Chinese Literature team here? Dean Chang told me to come and look for him."
Su Na was taken aback. "Looking for the chief?"
At this moment, an office door at the back of the room opened and a man in his forties or fifties walked out. "Teacher Zhang, you're here. My name is Yu Fan."
Zhang Ye shook his hand. "Hello."
Chief Yu said, "Have you dropped by the Mathematics team already?"
"Yes, I have," Zhang Ye answered.
Chief Yu nodded and then turned around to face his colleagues on the Chinese Literature question setting team. "Let me announce something. From today onward, Teacher Zhang will officially be joining our Chinese Literature team."
When everyone heard this, many of them showed rather awkward expressions.
Chief Yu then said to Zhang Ye, "Let me introduce you. This is Teacher Liao Qi from Tsinghua University; this is Teacher Li Rui from Renmin University; this is Teacher Ma Qi from Beijing Normal University; this is Teacher Su Na from…Oh, I don't need to actually introduce Teacher Su since you're both from Peking University's Chinese Department. I'm sure you know each other already?"
Su Na giggled. "Teacher Zhang, welcome."
Zhang Ye also played along and shook her hand. "Thank you, Teacher Su."
As for the others, they were not so friendly. Some of them didn't come forward to Zhang Ye to get to know him a little, and even did not bother to have a short conversation with him.
Chief Yu could also see that these people from the education or literary world seemed to have some sort of disagreement or conflict with Zhang Ye, but did not say anything. He directly asked Su Na to bring Zhang Ye up to date with the work they needed to do, and then headed back into his office.
In the Chinese Literature team, Zhang Ye did not get the same amount of respect he had when he was at the Mathematics team. The reason was very simple and likely to be because a literary person was typically more scornful of others. Zhang Ye was young and did not have many qualifications, having only worked for a semester at Peking University and even getting suspended later. He also had many conflicts and scolding battles with many of his peers from the literary and education world, so even though there were some peers like Su Na who enjoyed a good relationship with Zhang Ye, there were definitely more who had a poor relationship with him. Some of the literary and education world's members had not even met Zhang Ye before, but already hated him. As Zhang Ye had offended too many people before, now that they saw him coming on board and joining the Chinese Literature team as an exam question setter, a lot of the teachers were not convinced and also felt that he was not worthy to be here.
They all whispered privately to each other.
"What is he doing here?"
"I don't know."
"What the heck is Old Yu thinking?"
"So what if he knows how to compose some poems? That doesn't mean that he can set questions for the college entrance exam!"
"He's too rash, didn't he get suspended because of scolding others?"
"The controversy he created after he started that lecture on Dream of the Red Chamber still exists now. There are still many critics of his theory. For someone who is not diligent academically, how can we let him come and set the college entrance exam questions?"
"I am however convinced of Zhang Ye's standard in Mathematics, which by the way he is really great at, so even if he is going to be in charge of setting their exam questions, no one would object to it. But the Chinese Literature exam is different! This requires a rigorous understanding of Chinese Literature and also an understanding of Chinese Literature education. It is not something that a teacher who has only been teaching for six months would know!"
In the field of mathematics, Zhang Ye's achievements could be seen by everyone. Because for a mathematical conjecture or a math problem, you can either solve it or you can't. The quality is very clear there and it doesn't need much explaining either. Everyone could recognize it. However, in the literary and languages field, the standards were much blurrier. As they say, in martial arts, there's no second place; in literature, there's no first place. It was extremely difficult to differentiate who was better than another. Even if something you wrote was not read by anyone due to a lack of attention, if the experts and literature awards jury said that you were good, then you were good, which in turn meant you were a qualified literatus. On the contrary, the work you had written could be seen by a whole lot of people, gaining lots of attention, but if the industry insiders did not recognize you and picked at your faults, there was nothing you could do about it either.
This was the exact situation Zhang Ye was in. As he had offended too many people, the controversy surrounding his works in the literary field had always been huge.
He was young.
Had never received an award before.
Was a controversial figure in the industry.
Just based on these three points, it meant that Zhang Ye was doomed to his awkward position in the literary field. Those who liked him felt that he would become part of the new generation of leading figures in the Chinese literary world; those who disliked him said that he was the black sheep of the literary world and would try ways and means to freeze him out of the field.
Zhang Ye was not surprised by their reactions. He still maintained a smile and continued doing what he needed to do. In any case, he wasn't thinking of making friends with this bunch of people anyway.
He chatted with Su Na for a short while to find out about the situation. After that, Zhang Ye took a sample exam and went back to his dorm in Building 2. He lay in bed relaxed and started studying the exams section by section. Occasionally, he would flip open some high school Chinese Literature and Mathematics textbooks for reference.
Actually, Zhang Ye already had an idea in mind very early on. To suddenly scrape the current batch of exams and then come up another version that was more difficult might not seem easy to this group of exam question setters. They might not know where to start from or there might be insufficient time to do it, but to Zhang Ye, this wasn't a big issue at all. As long as he could understand this world's college entrance examination's situation and scope of the questions, then everything else would be as easy as the flip of a hand. That was because this guy's mind might not have much of anything, but a lack of college entrance exams was not one of them!
2009's Jiangsu exams.
2010's Hebei exams.
2011's Shanghai exams.
He had everything he needed and more! He had even taken those exams dating back to the 90s. As someone who had participated in the college entrance exams of his previous world, the amount of past exams he had seen, taken, and studied numbered close to at least a hundred. What he needed to do now was to find the suitable questions and put them together effectively!
Picking up his pen, Zhang Ye started to write his first question.