The Central Academy of Drama (CAD) attracts thousands of aspiring screen actors annually, but this year offered a Peking Opera major for the first time since the school was established in 1950.
Xu Hang, a 17-year-old student from Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, was one of the first to apply.
"I felt so excited, I couldn't wait to complete the registration," Xu says.
Xu's passion for Peking Opera was ignited aged 9 when she watched a TV program about the venerable art form.
"As a kid, I liked to keep changing channels while watching TV," Xu says. "But when I saw those elaborate silk costumes and colorfully painted faces on the screen, I was deeply moved and threw away the remote control. The art form was stunningly beautiful."
Xu then took Peking Opera training classes every day after school.
After two years of study, with her parents' support, Xu decided to undergo more formal training and applied to enroll at the Beijing-based High School Affiliated to the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts, a prominent school for students interested in Peking Opera.
"After I moved to Beijing to focus on learning Peking Opera, I found there were a lot more things to learn that require painstaking effort," Xu says, referring to skills such as a siren-like falsetto and turning somersaults.
"The more I learn about the 200-year-old opera, the more I love it," she says. "It's a national treasure full of amazing kungfu."
After six years of professional training in Beijing, Xu says she felt confident about the auditions to CAD.
"If I'm admitted to the academy, I will keep perfecting my skills and enhance my knowledge," Xu says.
"I hope I can be on TV someday, performing Peking Opera and shining like the actor I saw in my childhood."
Like Xu, Li Wanjin is also a candidate from Heilongjiang province, who came to Beijing to learn Peking Opera.
The 14-year-old is the youngest student among 3,700 aspirants vying for 60 spots in the academy's performing department.