China's economy didn't overtake Japan's by growing slowly.
In fact, China usually opts for fast: fast growth, fast trains and fast food. But now, a new kind of delivery service prides itself on being slow.
Panda Slow Delivery, the first of its kind worldwide, is based in Beijing's buzzing art hub the 798 district. Equipped with mailboxes and a panda postmark, Panda Slow Delivery resembles a normal post office but the letters sent here can take up to a year – even decades – to reach the addressees and the senders choose their own delivery date.
According to Panda staff, the most popular delivery date is Dec. 21, 2012 – the day when the world is said to end, as prophesized by ancient Mayans.
Currently, the latest delivery date is 2069. A newly married couple sent the letter in 2009, and are waiting to receive the letter on their 60th anniversary.
"People who come here usually have very touching stories," Panda administrator Liu Miao told ABC News, "An old man from Taiwan sent a letter to his grandson, who will be born in a few months. The Taiwanese man poured his love into the letter; he was diagnosed with terminal cancer."
Hu Yang wrote herself a letter to be delivered in 2015. The recent graduate says the letter contains her hopes and dreams. "I've written down all the goals I'm trying to achieve in my brand new life," Hu, 23, said. "I hope when I receive this letter after five years, I can check back to see whether or not I've succeeded."
The archaic delivery service has drawn an average of 100 customers per day since its launch in early 2009 and has since expanded to a second store in Beijing.
More "Panda's" in More Places?
Liu wants to bring Panda Slow Delivery to other parts of China and hopes to introduce the service in other countries.
"That will be a long way off," Liu said. "But I believe this creative service can attract a lot of customers internationally, just as it does in Beijing."
Some people still worry the slow delivery service will fail miserably if the addressee moves, or if the company closes down.
"How can they secure the letters, especially those to be sent in decades later?" one Chinese netizen commented.
But Panda administrator Zhao Yue, a law school graduate, is confident in the delivery service.
"The letters unable to be delivered due to address changes will be returned to their senders, safe and sound," Zhao said. "We will work to ensure every letter is delivered, even if we someday face bankruptcy. Security concerns are unnecessary because the letters are stored in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China."
Liu joined Panda Slow Delivery as an administrator after quitting a decent-paying job. Now, Liu only gets paid a fourth of what he made at his previous job but he doesn't regret his decision.
"This is a world that moves too fast," Liu said. "I love this job because it's meaningful, it slows people down, helps them contemplate their future and reveal their true feelings to someone."
Katherine Zhu contributed to this article.