Mr. Sun, thirty years old, is one of the three shareholders of Still Water, a private counseling center that was founded last year after two years of preparations.
In China, more and more private counseling and psychotherapy companies emerge. However, Mr. Sun claims, it is not an easy business to run. Last year three counseling centers, including Still Water, were founded in Nanjing, but only Still Water survived. The overall demand for psychotherapy services is absolutely growing, but Mr. Sun thinks not many people can afford it right now.
As an example he mentions psychoanalysis, which requires an intensive and long-term treatment process. Usually, the treatment needs three to four sessions in a week. The price of each session depends on the counselors’ experience, which is decided by the accumulated therapy hours and supervision hours. Prices for one hour therapy sessions at Still Water are 200, 300, 400 and 600 RMB. Mr. Sun’s price is 300 RMB per session. Most of the people coming here, especially the younger generations born after the 1970s and also teenagers, can afford up to 30 sessions.
Today, the government issues official licenses for the counselor profession. Mr. Sun explains that it is the Labor Department of China that is responsible for issuing the psychological counseling certificates. There are two levels of certificates; one level for senior counselors and one for junior counselors.
The criteria to get a certificate includes passing basic psychology and clinical psychology tests, as well as concluding a certain amount of counseling cases that will indicate your ability to the conceptualize cases. The scientific foundations of the tests lie in the most prevalent psychotherapy approaches. The first is Freud’s methodology of psychoanalysis, because it is the earliest and most classical approach in history. All the counselors have to read some materials from Freud, not the original version but some abstracts. The second approach is the Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), an evidence-based approach with a “natural scientific flavor”, as Mr. Sun describes it. Through CBT, counselors learn to explore the stimuli and responses of their clients. The third includes a more humanistic approach. Mr. Sun refers here to Transactional Analysis and similar derived approaches.
Mr. Sun gives us a short introduction to the history of psychotherapy in China. Psychotherapy already existed before the establishment of the Republic of China. His grandfather was a psychologist. Together with colleagues he conducted psychotherapy research and practice. However, the Cultural Revolution wiped out the whole discipline between 1966 and 1976. In a communist country like China, which puts material as the first substance, psychology with its concentration on spirituality was regarded as a fake and Bourgeois science. The early generation of psychologists either committed suicide or were captured. His grandpa, one of the captured, was forced to perform ridiculous tasks, like cleaning toilets.
The whole discipline was totally destroyed during the 10-year disaster and was not rebuilt until 1980s. Before 2001, there were only psychologists who prescribed pills. Therapies where psychologists would have sessions talking with their clients were nonexistent. It was in 2001 that the first new generation of counselors got their licenses from the government. According to Mr. Sun, at that time the government realized that some mental diseases cannot be totally cured by pills and they decided to issue the psychological counseling licenses.
When asked, Mr. Sun explains that there is not yet a market for affluent middle-class people who do not have serious disorders but want to take therapy sessions get to know themselves better. His clients for therapy are mainly the neurotic persons, such as those suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD). All of his clients come to him after having extremely serious quarrels or fights with their family and they have become too depressed to overcome the problems on their own. He shares with us an interesting finding that almost all his clients are from private companies or starting their own business. He speculates that civil servants working for public institutions live a pretty happy life, so none of them has the need of psychological counseling.
Since all the supervisors of Mr. Sun are Swedish, he has access to plenty of European cases of psychotherapy. Based on his comparison of the foreign and domestic cases, he tells that most of the foreign clients have problems deeply rooted in their family background, whereas the Chinese clients have problems driven by social changes taking place in the last decades.
According to him, the majority of Swedish clients suffer from personality disorders and neurosis conflicts caused by family miseries at their early ages, for example, sexual abuses and physical abuses. Thanks to the stable society in Sweden, few people have problems in adapting to social changes. However, for the last two to three decades, people born after the 1970s in China have undergone dramatic social changes. When they were in their primary schools, they were taught to love the country and the communist party. However, after they grew up, they found this cramming of ideology was fake and useless. They were exposed to and were forced to adapt to the brutal competitions for materials in the jungle society. They pursue so hard to own a house, a car and other materials, seen as necessities for marriage and life nowadays, that they lose their focus in the spiritual world as a consequence.
Now that the problems are driven by social changes, Mr. Sun sometimes feels that he cannot do anything to exterminate the root of these problems. However, he and his colleagues are endeavoring to guide their clients to address the problems with a peaceful state of mind. One of his colleagues joked that as a matter of fact, they are all working for the government, because their main job is to wipe out the anger of their clients and to make them more adapted to the society.
However, after years of practicing, he is more willing to describe his duty as growing the personal freedom inside his clients. He and his colleagues now share the view that if we get more personal freedom, sooner or later our society would be freer. He cites from one of his colleagues, that a free country cannot be built with a bunch of slaves. He says that “our people” are suffering from an inner constriction that they easily knee down to the authority of the government, and even worse, cherish “worship with a fever” for the authority. Through the communication between him and his clients, he believes that they have more courage to defend their own rights in their life and more knowledge to earn their money and status without abandoning their dignity.
We continue our conversation with the focus on Mr. Sun’s personal experience. He majored in English and Chinese Comparative Literature in college. In 2005, he pursued a master’s degree in clinical psychology and now has one year before getting his doctor’s degree in the same major. Till now, he has practiced clinical psychology for seven years. He will go to Norway next year for further study.
He describes his personal counseling style as the combination of Western methods and Buddhist theories. Despite utilizing the Western methods to analyze and research, he makes the wisdom of Buddhism the foundation of his counseling. The goal of Western psychotherapy is to cure people, while the marrow of Buddhism is to accept. For example, he uses Western techniques such as the double chair, i.e. he asks his clients to communicate with their family members as if they were present. However, if they refuse, he accepts and changes to another technique. The foundation based on Buddhist philosophy enables his clients to have the feeling of being accompanied in their most difficult period, not being treated as a patient. He is sure that this accompanying is curative to his clients.
Mr. Sun says that three or four years ago, he would agree that the western psychology attaches so much importance to the value of individual that it helps create too many selfish people. However, now, after further study and reflection upon Western theories and Buddhist philosophy, he has changed his view. First, more theories with the premise that human beings exist in relations, such as the “Dasein” analysis approach, are burgeoning in recent years. Also, he does not think there is a conflict between the emphasis on ego and the emphasis on relationship any more. The Buddhist, especially the South Buddhist theories, also focuses on the individual. What they advocate is that if people can love themselves, they will have more strength and power to love others. He further illustrates that if people have more personal freedom, they will have more chances to build the intimacy with others, while those haunted by inner constrictions find themselves hard to establish and maintain relationships.
Mr. Sun admits that seven years of study and practice of clinical psychology exerts a far-reaching influence on his own development as an individual. In the past, he could not bear some personal conflicts, but now he becomes more emotionally stable, peaceful and happier in his life. His professional goal in the next ten years is to develop his own approach and original therapy theory, which can better fit the Chinese people’s psychological need. He has been forging the way of integrating the Western methods and the Buddhist philosophy, theoretically and practically.
“Still Water”, the name of the counseling center, according to Mr. Sun, was derived from the movie “Almost Famous”. There was a rock band called Still Water in this movie. He added that they were also inspired by the famous western saying, “Still waters run deep”.
Seven young therapists work in the center and they all want to go deeper in their counseling career and psychological research. For the first two years of this center, they invited supervisors from Sweden and America to have workshops and one year ago, they all thought it was high time to receive clients on their own. Clients can find them on their website through their advertisements.
At two o’clock p.m., a weekly salon begins in the center. About fifteen people participate in the salon, including three therapists, college students majoring in psychology in Nanjing Normal University as well as people interested in psychology. This week’s theme of the salon is peoples’ expression of their anger. All the participants are asked to share their experience of getting extremely irritated.
Mr. Chen, one of the therapists, lost his temper with a bunch of college students in Wenchuan during the post-earthquake (2008) reconstruction period. His team and the college students were both sent there to carry out psychological consultation to children. Since no task was assigned to the students, they were playing all day long and making a lot of noise. Mr. Chen, dissatisfied with the students for rather a long time, finally lost his temper because he could no longer bear their noisy behavior.
The two college graduates following Mr. Chen’s story have both identical stories. They both want to become psychotherapists in the future, whereas their parents insist that they have to do more stable and income-guaranteed jobs, such as a salesman or a civil servant. One of them left home when he had failed to control his resistance to such pressures.
Another girl was irritated after a sexual harassment. The boyfriend of her roommate touched her butt while she was washing her hair. She described her feeling at that moment as being instantly detonated. She poured all the water on him, slapped him in his face and did not allow him to come to their dorm any more.
Most of the participants regretted their outrage afterwards. However, Mr. Sun tells them it was the outrage that visualized their emotional needs for them. Through expressing their anger, they could see a clearer self and hear a clearer crave from the inside.
Note to those who come to the bridge planning to commit suicide: “善待生命每一天” (shàndài shēngmìng měi yī tiān) “Treat life well every day”
In the middle of a residential area, located in the west of the Gulou district in Nanjing and just 1.5 km from the Changjiang (Yangtze) River, a ship rises between the buildings. Closer inspection learns that it is only half a ship. Fourteen years ago the ship was built for training students at the Tanker Shipping Sailor Training School.
Mr. Qi is 55 years old and has been a teacher at the school for the past 10 years. He tells the school is affiliated with Sinotrans and CNS Holdings CO Ltd. Established in 1984 it moved to its current location in 1998. The school employs around 10 full time teachers and a handful of part time teachers. Though small, it is the only official training institute for sailors in Nanjing.
The school issues official shipping licenses. As sailor is considered to be a stable job, there is a steady influx of up to 300 students every year. Not only young people apply; the age of students varies from 18 to 60 years old. While some female students enroll every year, the male students outnumber them at least 1:10.
The school offers three different kinds of courses: the training of river transportation, coastal shipping and ocean shipping.
Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Qi used to be in charge of the supply of electricity on a ship. He describes his early life on the water as both “boring” and “free”. He tells that in the 80s and 90s of the last century telecommunications were not that advanced in China. He and his fellow boat mates could not surf the Internet, watch TV or even listen to the radio on the ship. All they could do to kill the time was to have a little drink, play chess or cards and read some books. However, they always had a good time when their ship was berthed at a port. They were usually given six or more hours of free time, which they used for short, yet exciting, visits to the city areas around the ports. He enjoyed a feeling of freedom in meeting people and discovering cities unknown to him.
This all changed after he got married. He felt bound to his family and did not enjoy the freedom anymore. He refers this period as a “hard time”. In the end he quit his job and became a teacher.
When asked if dealing with loneliness and being far away from your family for a long time is a subject that is part of the school’s curriculum, he explains that such subjects are not discussed with the students. Everybody has to deal with that in his or her own way.
Mr. Wang Xinqiao, 57 years old and a teacher at shipping schools for the past 30 years, joins our conversation. He speaks some English which he learned when sailing the world for 11 years as a young man.
We briefly talk about the school again. The level of education of most students is not very high. The teaching is quite relaxed; the subject matters they teach are easy to acquire. Classes are from Monday to Sunday, but teachers don’t need to work many hours in the office; they just come and go for classes.
Mr. Qian Xuejian is responsible for the catering services of a leisure center in Nanjing, the “Smile Culture Club”. The club is the Nanjing branch of a Beijing entertainment company, Smile. According to Mr. Qian, Beijing Smile, established in 1992, has earned a good reputation in the Chinese entertainment industry. It is famous for its organization of the annual lobster festival and all kinds of carnivals as well as its ability of inviting superstars to its performances.
This club not only functions as the branch company which organizes performances, but also provides catering and leisure services to performers who come to Nanjing. However, in order to make more money, it is open to all the consumers now. The average consumption per customer at the club ranges from 40 RMB to 100 RMB.
Mr. Qian asks us to guess his age. “Most of the people who are asked to guess my age think I am in my forties, but in fact I am already 59 years old and will retire next year ”, he smiles and says he is proud of his young appearance.
Mr. Qian had three totally different jobs in his life. At the age of 18, he joined the army to become a solider. For the next 21 years he remained in the army and was promoted to a lieutenant. As a cadre of the Communist Party, he says, he had to be transferred to different positions or locations every few years as a result of a policy to prevent corruption of officers who stay in one position for too long.
He did not like the frequent changes in jobs and locations and, almost forty, he left the army and began to work as a supervisor in the shipping industry. His main duty was to supervise sailors’ obedience to laws, rules and regulations. One focus was on sailors who revealed state and trade secrets. Mr. Qian was in charge of identifying the obstructions and to enforce disciplinary actions. The business of shipping iron, steel and other materials took him to the coasts of Australia, Korea, Russia, Taiwan and numerous other faraway places. He loved this job most. He did what is many people’s dream today: travel around the world.
Ten years later, he started his third career as a manager of a three-star hotel in Sanya, Hainan. He enjoyed this job as well, as it allowed him to communicate with guests from all around the world, to help solve their troubles and to try providing them with the best services.
Currently Mr. Qian is helping out a relative as a catering manager in the Smile Culture Club. Next year, when retired, he hopes to start traveling the world again. His pension, which he expects to be between 4000 and 6000 RMB per month, would allow him to do so.
He shows us pictures of his granddaughter. He enjoys making photos and suggests exchanging images via QQ, a Chinese instant messaging service. He explains that he chose a poetic QQ name that translates into in English in: seaman sailing on the foggy ocean …
We meet Xinlu (Lulu) on the street. She recently returned from Canada, where she spent four years learning Digital Arts. The course of her major was classified into eight programs, each of which did cost her family 2,750 dollars. She stopped after the fourth section and decided to come back to Nanjing, for she had acquired all the necessary skills through the course, such as how to write an academic paper or deliver presentations in the field of Digital Arts.
After being abroad for such a long time, Lulu finds it difficult to accommodate herself to the life in China again. At some point she describes her feeling as “horrible”. One thing she minds much is that Chinese people do not greet each other heartily. “In Canada, people say hello to each other in the morning bus, even though they do not know each other,” she says. “Here nobody does this anymore. In everyone’s eyes, I can sense their mistrust of strangers and their silent questioning: ‘what do you want from me?’ ”
Lulu has got an offer from a famous art university in London. However, her parents do not allow her to further her study in art, claiming that art students cannot find well-paid jobs in China. Lulu is not too disappointed about their decision, because now she also believes that it is only with a large fortune that she can realize her dream of traveling, painting and making photos.
Lulu states that her current goal is to earn a great amount of money. She does not take being an artist or taking a boyfriend into her current consideration; claiming that art and love consumes money. She tells us: “There is no love between my parents, which seems not that problematic. However, can you imagine a love without a house and a car? Love needs these, so love needs money!”
Given the question: “Suppose you have two choices for your future: one is your true love and two thousand RMB per month, and the other is no love but ten thousand per month RMB. Which one do you prefer?” Lulu hesitates for a while and answers firmly: “One: true love.”
Name: Jin Xueshi
Chinese zodiac sign： Ox
Education: After I graduated from middle school I started to work in a village because of the Cultural Revolution; a lot of young people had to help grow crops in poor regions at that time.
Profession: I grew crops on the fields for 20 years. Then I started to work in a factory and became the director. Now I’m retired and devoting all my energy to painting.
When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?
I love painting. I have been interested in painting since my early school days, but because of the Cultural Revolution I couldn’t realize my dream. Now I am learning how to paint by myself.
I get up around 4 or 5 a.m. and practice for 6 to 7 hours every day. I have a strong self-discipline and I am always trying to improve my skills. I have been through lots of things in my life, good and bad, and now I only care about achieving my personal goals and please myself. No matter whether I will become famous and rich (as a painter), or not.
Almost all of my paintings and drawings are copies from artworks made by others and my favorite subjects are the leaders of my country. It is because of their wise leadership that we can live the wonderful life we live today.
Although the Cultural Revolution had a big impact on my life and ended my study in school, I have no negative thoughts towards the government at all. We have to regard the history dialectically. Making mistakes is inevitable during the development of a country, and we wouldn’t even have started the development of our country without Chairman Mao.
Name three of your daily routine activities:
Taking a walk, painting, and doing some housework.
What is your favorite food?
I prefer food with light flavor, such as fruits and vegetables, not too oily or too salty; and I love drinking tea.
How much money do you spend on food per day?
There are six people in my family: my wife, my son, my daughter-in-law, my two grandchildren and me. We spend around 60-70 RMB/day.
Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)
Beijing, I was born and raised in this village (He Gezhuang). Three years ago we built a second floor on the house and that’s where we live right now. The rooms on the ground floor are rented out to tenants.
What is your most precious childhood memory?
The most precious childhood memory to me is studying. When I was young, I got full scores for every course, and helped my teacher making test sheets. I used to be the leader of the Student Council and the militia commander, my role was always a leader among all the students. They called me “secretary”, which means the helper of teachers. It was amazing.
What are the three most important things in life for you?
I think spirit is of the biggest importance to everyone. One must achieve a goal, and get rid of emptiness. I have never done anything shameful so far. Maybe it’s because of the traditional education at my time. Call it old fashion, but I don’t see anything bad about it. And that’s also what I taught my child. My family is extremely harmonious. My son is a decent guy and he also asks his children to be decent. Also of importance: I believe that one should be practical.
What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?
I have no strong desire for material stuff. I think one should be practical and be peaceful inside.
Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy
I’m extremely happy now. Painting with my bare hands, presenting the essence of society, as well as everything I love, is the best thing that ever happened to me.
In a broader context; I’m pretty satisfied with the current society. I thank the government for giving farmers such a good treatment and appreciate their efforts on improving laws and in cultural matters. News is pretty much the only thing I watch on TV. I can watch speeches of our leaders for hours, crying for the words. One should always be on the same side with one’s country. ”If there is any aggression, I would fight for my country without a thought”.
What do you expect will the future bring for you?
I believe that I can make some achievements in the future, maybe having my own exhibition, or traveling and learning from the world. All people in my family lived a long life, so I still have time. If my house is about to be demolished someday, I will go traveling with the money I get from the demolishment team. I’ll go to the Le Louvre Museum and learn from those masterpieces. I may also visit some museums in Russia.
What is your religion?
I have no religion.
Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
(click full screen icon for best view)
the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China
We meet a 60-year-old former farmer at the Wutaishan Gymasium. He comes here every afternoon. Unlike many other visitors who gather in small groups to play cards, Chinese chess or Ping-pong, he prefers to be alone. He spends 1-2 hours on average per day doing exercises with the free-to-use equipment at the gym. When he gets tired, he rests on a bench in the shade of the surrounding old trees and starts massaging his legs and feet for a while.
After the death of his wife, ten years ago, he left his farm and moved to Nanjing to work as a parking attendant. His children are living in Yanzhou, a city near Nanjing; the oldest is a doctor, the second a tollgate cashier and the youngest a teacher. They belong to the middle class of the society and earn decent incomes that would be sufficient to support their father. However, he refuses to live with any of them: “I chose to live alone, not because they are not willing to support me, but because I do not want to disturb their lives”. The gap between him and the younger generation, as he explains, could cause family problems when living together. He then gives us many examples of differences between him and his children, such as different views on the daily diet, raising children, or even sleeping habits. He sees no reason to bother himself with all these trivial problems at his age.
Although he has lived in the city for ten years, he still adores people’s lifestyle in the countryside. He claims that a countryman will never suffer from high pressure, diabetes, or other so-called “rich-man diseases”. According to him, the countrymen work and sweat every day at the land much more than people here at the gym. They breath air that is fresher than the urban air and drink water that is clearer than the urban water. Also, unlike people living in the city who take too much sugar and animal fat, they eat fruits, leafy vegetables and coarse grains. He points to an Alzheimer patient sitting on a bench a few meters away: “Such a terrible disease would never find a countryman.”
Despite the fact that he loved the country life so much, he moved to the city because he had no company anymore after his wife’s death. In the city, he has a job to kill time, several friends to chat with and a pleasant corner in the gym to work out every day; while in the country he had nothing but a small piece of farmland.
He slows his voice suddenly with a rueful smile in his face. “The only pity in my life is that she left too early. Since her death in 2002, I am not afraid of dying anymore.”
We talk about the happy days in his life. “Youth was my happiest time”, he answers without hesitation, “when I was young, I could do whatever I wanted to do, without asking anyone’s permission. However, now I can no longer take any adventures and almost have forgotten the feeling of being young and free.”
The No.6 block at Jiu Xianqiao was one of the dormitories for the 798 and other factories we wrote about in previous posts.
We walk around at a plant for the central heating of the block that was built in co-operation with the Soviet Union in the 1950s.
Every block in this neighborhood used to have its own plant with huge boilers to provide central heating. Now, 60 years later, most of them have been demolished and just a few are still in operation.
According to a worker at this plant, which belongs to a state-owned enterprise, the boilers are still in use. “It will be demolished soon”, he says.
Mrs. Li is from Hebei. She has been a rickshaw driver in Beijing’s Jiang Tai area for 10 years. With her three-wheeler she makes a business as a private taxi. The government has announced this business illegal many years ago, but you can find these taxis anywhere in Beijing outside the 3rd ring road. There are no standard charges, but usually the fare is much cheaper than a normal taxi.
We meet Mrs. Li around 4 pm. She has made 90 RMB so far today. Sometimes, she says, she makes less that 100 RMB a day.
Ever since the rickshaws have been banned, the police is hunting for illegal taxis. Mrs. Li tells that the police in the area know her well as she has been caught many times.
Every time she was caught, the “urban-management” police confiscated her motor. According to Mrs. Li, the motor costs her 10,000 RMB. Thus, she has to beg them to give her motor back. Since Mrs. Li’s husband is disabled, the police would always return her motor after giving her a fine of 1,000 RMB.
Mrs. Li tells that she gets along very well with her husband, who has been disabled ever since an injection damaged his nerves when he was a kid. Having to take care of two children, one is five and the other is eight, Mrs. Li is not able to take a regular full-time job.
Commenting on her cat-and-mouse game with her illegal taxi and the police, she says: “I have no choice, I just need to earn as much money as I can.”
Mr. and Mrs. Cheng have a business in recycling in the Jiu Xianqiao neighborhood no.6. It’s the kind of business you find in every neighborhood. They collect and sort out recyclable waste, like paper or plastic, and sell it to a recycling station. Typically they pay anyone who brings the waste and sell it with a small mark-up. For paper, Mr. Cheng tells us, he pays 0.7 RMB/kg and he sells it with a 0.1 RMB/kg margin for 0.8 RMB/kg. He can sell at least one truck of waste every day. Per month he and his wife earn more than 8,000 RMB.
Mr. Cheng has been recycling waste for 10 years and he’s pretty satisfied with his job. He works for himself and his working time is flexible. Mr. Cheng tells he earns more than people doing a normal job. He might even use some of his savings to take his family on a trip to Europe one day, he says.
Mr. Cheng lives with his wife and their eight-month-old daughter in a small one-story house next to the waste collection site. Originally they are from the Henan province. These days Mr. Cheng’s parents also live in Beijing, near Jianguomen. Still, they visit their hometown once a year, on Tomb Sweeping Day.
Mr. Cheng thinks that the policies of the Chinese government are pretty good; otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to settle down in Beijing and live such a good life. He says that most people in Beijing are from other provinces and, thanks to the good policies, people are free to go to any place they want.