As postal services become faster and faster, some people are trying to slow down deliveries to arrive on a specific date in the future.
Many stores are providing a "slow" postal service for customers ahead of World Post Day on Friday. In a society where people pursue speed and efficiency, the service is popular among young people, mostly out of curiosity about the future and nostalgia for the past.
Xue Liang, from north China's Hebei Province, sent a postcard from the historic town of Pingyao in Shanxi Province. He wrote to his girlfriend but wants her to receive it in five years time.
"I think we'll be married and even have our own child by then. The postcard will remind her of the sweetness of our love," says Xue.
Unlike most postal service where faster is more expensive, it costs five yuan (around one U.S. dollar) for each slow letter to be delivered this year, 10 yuan for next year, 15 for 2017 and so on.
Xue put his postcard in an envelope, wrote "2020" on the corner of the envelope and paid 30 yuan. Each night, the store owner sorts the cards based on the date chosen by the customers: a dad to his unborn baby in 2016; wife to her husband in 2046; a cancer patient to his future self in 2017.
"The slow delivery service is popular among people in their twenties and thirties. They send cards to themselves, relatives or friends," said the owner.
As life gallops along, and e-mail and text messages almost cause letters to die out, slow mail has boomed, especially in developed regions like Beijing and Shanghai.
Another postcard store "Cat's Sky City" has more than 30 branches nationwide. An employee from its branch in Suzhou revealed that the shop handled more than 1,000 slow postcards and letters a day during the National Day holiday, which ended on Wednesday. "Most people send them to their future selves. They are curious about their future life and hope to have a private conversation with themselves," she said.
A search for "slow postal service" at taobao.com found more than 120 stores, but it is important to choose a reliable company to ensure that the letter eventually arrives
"When I write the future letter, I understand that enjoying life in the slow lane sometimes is more meaningful than speeding up in a fickle world," says Zhao Xiaoyuan, 18, who will receive her own postcard next year when she enters college.