Have you ever dreamed about sending a letter to yourself or your friends in the future? While express mail represents efficiency and speed and is prevalent in China, there is another type of mail emerging as a new business: "future mail."
"The letter should be delivered next 'Mother's Day' and not a day earlier!" Lin Xiaofan, a senior high school student in Hefei, capital of central China's Anhui Province, instructs one of the companies offering the service.
Companies delivering mail as slowly as their customers want are popping up all over China, in cities like Beijing, Chongqing, Hefei and Hangzhou.
The price of the service depends on how long clients want their mail to be held, and a longer period is more expensive.
Lin Xiaofan wrote the letter to her mother in advance, before she left home for a college in Beijing.
"I wrote what I was feeling at the moment. And I wanted to express my thanks and love to my mother for next Mother's Day," she says.
"Offering this service makes people slow down and let them understand the meaning of 'time' in another way," said Zheng Zhimin, manager at a "future mail" company in Hefei.
"People can write their letters in advance and we will keep them for some period and then deliver them on the day the customer designates," he said.
Zheng thinks "future mail" letters are "reminders of and catalysts for affection, friendship and love."
Feng Xiao moved to Beijing from eastern China's Anhui Province for a job after graduation. Although she has achieved some results in her career, she feels pressure from her busy life.
Feng decided to write a letter to herself on her 25th birthday and have it delivered five years later on her 30th birthday through a "future mail" company in Beijing.
"I expressed my thoughts about my current life and my expectations for the future to encourage myself to face up to the challenges of my life with courage," Feng said. She thinks the letter on her 30th birthday will be a gift to herself.
"No matter what my life will be when I am 30 years old, I will be able to look back over the past five years when I read the words, so I'm really looking forward to it," Feng said.
While "future mail" is gaining popularity, some are concerned about what happens if the postal address of the recipient changes. Also, what if the company goes broke before letters are delivered, some skeptics asked.
Zheng said customers are required to complete an acceptance form and make an assessment so they can be compensated if their letters or goods are lost or damaged.
"We keep the telephone numbers and the addresses of the clients so we can send their letters back if we are going to fail to deliver," she said.
In Beijing, one "future mail" company is considering renting a safe-deposit box at a bank for letters and goods to be stored to ensure their security over long periods.
"It will be exciting if I can receive my own letter several decades in the future. But I won't be too disappointed if I cannot, because what is more important are the feelings when I write the letter," said Zhu Min, who works for a foreign company in Shanghai.
Most of the business's customers are college students and young white-collar workers. Psychologists said young Chinese might have a new vent for their pent-up feelings through the service.
"People living in modern cities may feel so stressed that some of them become lonely and confused, but 'future mail' can bring some comfort to them. They can record, express and share their feelings by writing a letter. They then can send it to the future to relieve their stress and anxieties," Fan Chenghui, a psychologist in Hefei, said.
"Some write down their life goals. This is actually a form of self-encouragement for young people," Fan added.
"For the 'future mail' letter writers, each letter represents hope. They put their hopes and wishes in the letter so they can experience the connection between the past and the present while they receive the letter. It can help people reunderstand the meaning of 'time'," said Wang Kaiyu, a sociologist in Anhui Province.