The ritual I would like to talk about is a graduation ceremony I attended. It was a graduation ceremony at one of the universities in China. The ritual was held in the auditorium of the university, where big events such as conventions, theatrical shows are held. The auditorium was a large venue that can accommodate over 1000 people. There were two floors, the grand hall and the balcony floor around three sides, where parents of the students were seated. At the front of the auditorium was a large stage with red curtains opened at two sides. On the stage, there were about 30 empty chairs. The stage was set against a large screen in the middle, showing a picture of the entrance of the university and the university motto. On top of the stage there was a red banner with the words “Sun Yat-sen University 2015 Graduation and Degree Award Ceremony”. In front of the stage, students were seated. They all dressed in baccalaureate gowns – black robes with red collars, and trencher caps. The ritual starts with an announcement asking students to stand up and welcome the Officiating professors. Then the school anthem started to play, 30 professors walking in line into the auditorium, all dressed in red gowns. At the head of the line was the principal of the university, holding a mace. The guest professors walked onto the stage and sat down on the chairs. All students were standing still, looking at the professors while they walked. The university anthem was playing until all the professors were seated. The auditorium was full of a solemn atmosphere. After an introduction of the guests, all attendees stood up again and began to sing the national anthem together. Then the principle was invited to make a speech. After the speech all students were asked to go on the stage one by one. The principle passed the graduation certificate to every student and shook every student’s hand. Some students get the chance to hug the principle. The ceremony was then followed by speeches given by guest professors. All these speeches expressed the professors’ congratulation to the students and their wishes and expectations to them. The speeches were inspiring in the sense that they all aimed to encourage students’ success and contribution to the wider community when they leave the school and enter the society. The ceremony ended with appreciation to student’s family members sitting on the balcony.
The ceremony was a ritual that marks the graduation of students from school which means they are no longer students, but a independent adult. It is an official end of studentship and is a sign of new responsibilities entitled to the participants. Thus it can be categorized into Rites of Passage. The things occurs at the ritual are symbolic. The caps, gowns of the students are especially designed and are traditionally symbolic of the scholarly status of education and knowledge. Color of the collars, gowns represents different level of degree- bachelor, master or doctor. The university anthem is an expression of the university’s spirit, characteristics, and culture. Playing the university anthem at the start of the ceremony marked the beginning of the ritual. The academic mace origins from the medieval times when they were signs of professionals and officials. It was used in the ritual here as a symbol of successful completion of study and ready to move on to the next level.