Nanjing, Pastor Yin

 

Mr. Yin is the pastor at the Christianity Jiangsu Road Church.

 

He tells us that, though not in large scale, this church already has a history of over 60 years. It started in 1941 by some local Christians and changed its locations for three times from 1947 to 1999. During the period of Cultural Revolution (1966-1981) it was closed and occupied by the government for other uses. In 1999 it moved to the current location.

 

Mr. Yin was born in a small city in Jilin, a province in the northeastern part of China. He has been in Nanjing for 15 years and now has become a local here. He entered the Nanjing Union Seminary in 1996 and continued his graduate study to get his master’s degree in 2003. Asked why he came to such a faraway city to study theology, he explained that in China only the seminaries in Nanjing are recognized throughout the nation. According to him, seminaries in China can be classified into three levels, namely the national, provincial and municipal level. Comparatively, the nationwide seminaries enjoy more abundant teaching resources and more authoritative status.

 

Since priesthood is still a rare job in China, we are curious why he decided to study theology and chose it as his lifelong career. He tells us it was decided by his family and his experience of understanding Christianity. Because his parents are both pastors, he was exposed to religious culture at young age. During his teens, he felt that his life has been elevated by his belief and therefore he confirmed his willingness to believe in God. At the decisive crossroad of life where he had to choose his future career, he heard Jesus’ calling from inside and was determined to dedicate his life to God.

 

Last year, after being a preacher for six years, he was promoted to pastor. His main duties include preaching, giving services, dealing with the everyday affairs of the church, teaching religious knowledge to pastors of other churches and acting as the host of weddings and funerals. In the past, he says, some people taking part in the Christian funerals would mind abandoning the Chinese traditions like the burning of paper money. However, with more and more people beginning to respect the Christian rituals, these conflicts do not exist any longer.

 

Mr. Yin is also responsible for hosting the annual baptism ceremony. Usually, there is only one big open ceremony in July. For people with special needs, such as the elderly and the disabled, they go their homes for the baptism. Next to all these tasks, Mr. Yin acts as a consultant in the church. People come to him for various reasons. Some of them come to relieve their confusion in belief before deciding to become a Christian or convert to Christianity. Others come to solve their questions in reading and understanding the Bible. There are also people who come to ease their mental stresses caused by family, social relations or work. “It is estimated that in China 60% to 70% of the population have psychological problems to different extents,” he tells us, “so it is important for us to be their listeners and help them to live with love, hope and belief.

 

 

Talking of his family, the pastor shows a wide smile on his face. He got married in Nanjing and now has two daughters. The older is 7 years old, while the younger is a baby born in May 2012. They live a typical Christian life, praying before dinners and reading the bible before sleeping. “I am happy,” he says, “ to see my children grow in the blessing of the Lord.”

 

Mr. Yin is also excited to tell us about the development of Christianity in Nanjing. Twenty years ago, there were only 2,000 to 3,000 Christians in Nanjing, whereas the number has increased to 150,000 today. Most Christians here are protestant. He gives us two reasons to explain why the development of Christianity is going so fast in the past 20 years. The first is that everyone has a need for belief. In the Chinese society where dramatic reforms and changes are taking place, numerous values spring up. When exposed to the voices advocating individuality, profits, efficiency or any other values, many people gradually lose the sense of belonging. In such cases, they need a spiritual support, a voice that can firmly tell them what is the truth. The second reason is that the development towards a more liberal society in China allows for the existence of religions. In the Cultural Revolution period, religion was regarded as superstition and strictly forbidden. People had craving for belief, but where deprived of the right to exercise their belief. However, now the society begins to recognize religions and to respect people’s freedom of choosing a religion.

 

Mr. Yin denies the thought that the Chinese churches are simulating the traditional Western churches. Though Christianity originated from, and has had a two thousand years of history in, the Western countries, the values it has been advocating transcend the boundary of nations. The mission of Chinese churches is to practice and spread these values in the most acceptable and effective ways. He highlights that they do not rigidly exercise the rituals of Christianity, but focus on the essence. “We often play anthems with erhu and guzheng, build churches in Chinese traditional style and preach with Chinese examples, and so forth”, he says. “Chinese elements can be found almost everywhere in our churches; such as music, poems, books, rituals and buildings.”

 

In the end, Mr. Yin discusses with us the relationship between Chinese churches and the Chinese government. First, there is not an official organization that leads all the churches, nor a leader like a cardinal or a bishop. Churches of different types disperse all around the country, including some family-run ones and even illegal ones. Second, Chinese churches do not have to pay any tax to the government. Third, the attitude of Chinese government toward Christianity has changed from inhibition to respect and support. One example is that the Nanjing government is investing in building a large church which can accommodate 5000 people in a suburban area (near the Olympic Sports Center). According to Mr. Yin, churches need the support of the government, because the government is able to provide sufficient financial security to help them.

 

 

Nanjing, Ms. Tao Rong

 

Ms. Tao, 42 years old, is the manager of Jiyinian Psychological Counseling Center in Nanjing. Although she majored in literature rather than psychology in university, she developed an interest in psychological analysis, especially the theory of psychodynamics. She became the student of a Norwegian psychologist to systematically study psychoanalysis in 2003 and started her counseling career in 2004.

 

Jiyinian Psychological Counseling Center was established by Ms. Tao and her friends, Ms. Yang and Mr. Chen, in 2006. In its infancy stage, it was rather difficult to run the center. Therefore, in the next year, both Yang and Chen left the center for better careers. Ms. Tao remained till now but did not enlarge the scale of the center. There are two full-time counselors in the center and several part-time psychologists who come at times for academic exchanges. She explained that she neither has ambition or time to manage a center on a larger scale.

 

According to Ms. Tao, the history of psychoanalysis in China is rather short; it can be traced to the years before the Cultural Revolution. At that time, some Western psychoanalytical theories were introduced. The development was suspended during the Cultural Revolution Period and slowly restored when medical colleges re-introduced Psychiatry as a subject. The first generation of students majoring in Psychiatry after the Cultural Revolution, have become the backbone of the psychoanalytical profession. Many of them, she says, are her teachers.

 

 

Ms. Tao tells that in China counselors mainly utilize Western approaches, such the psychodynamics of Freud or the TA methodology (Transactional Analysis) in their counseling. However, many of them are making endeavors to adjust these traditional Western methods to better serve Chinese people. Their major attempt is to introduce Chinese ancient philosophies into psychoanalysis, such as the thoughts of Zen, Confucius and Tao. In the last few years, she herself has pursued the wisdom in Zen and tries to practice her findings in counseling.

 

She believes this attempt is necessary in China. First, the disasters China has weathered in the past one and a half century, namely 150 years of war and 10 years of Cultural Revolution, have torn a huge trauma on people’s sub-consciousness. Second, Chinese people show little concern on children’s mental health both in the traditional and modern education. This ignorance distorts the personalities of many children. Therefore, Chinese people have their own psychic wounds that cannot be cured merely through imported psychoanalytical methods.

 

“In psychodynamic treatment, counselors take respecting their clients as the primary principle”, said Ms. Tao, “so we call clients ‘visitors’ or ‘cases’ instead of ‘patients’.” Ms. Tao cannot give an average age, education level or social background of her visitors, because they are from all walks of life. Yet she is sure that all her visitors can afford the consulting fees and young people at the age of 20 to 30 account for the majority. In the exam season, many adolescents who are going to take the entrance examination for college or high school come to her to relieve their pressures.

 

 

In the psychoanalytical theories, mental illnesses can be classified into three kinds based on the severity; namely schizophrenia, personality disorders and neurosis conflicts. In European countries such as France, psychological counseling centers provide psychotherapies to all the three illnesses, whereas those in China are currently lacking the conditions to treat schizophrenia. Therefore, visitors coming to Ms. Tao usually suffer from personality disorders or neurosis conflicts.

 

In most cases, visitors are unaware of their personality disorders or neurosis conflicts. Visitors come to Ms. Tao to solve various types of common problems, for example, their difficulty in dealing with colleagues, friends, lover or pressures from their job or study. These problems are in effect only the symptoms of certain mental illness. Ms. Tao needs to utilize complex techniques and skills in psychoanalysis, which are mainly based on Freud’s theory of defense mechanisms and Bowlby’s theory of attachment patterns, to trace the root causes beneath these symptoms.

 

It is crucial to distinguish whether the visitor suffers from personality disorders or merely neurosis conflicts. For an experienced counselor, it takes only one or two sessions of talking to resolve the neurosis conflicts. Nevertheless, the treatment called “personality integration process” can last up to several years if the visitor has been assessed to have personality disorders.

 

 

Ms. Tao told that both personality disorders and neurosis conflicts find their roots in the childhood experience of visitors. People with such illnesses did not have a good connection with their “mother”, a metaphor of guardians like parents, grandparents, other family members or nannies. Any hurt feelings related to their “mother” could be deeply embedded in the sub-consciousness of them. Personality disorders are more severe than neurosis conflicts because they originate from the early stages in life, when people did not know how to deal with them.

 

Personality disorders can be caused by a variety of psychic shocks occurring to the visitors before they were three years old. The psychic shocks include the early death of parents, early divorce, domestic violence, abandoning or disregarding girls. Ms. Tao added that parents with psychic traumas, for instance, thanatophobia (a specific fear of death) or fear of being abandoned, tend to transmit their illnesses to their children. For instance, during the “Three Years of Natural Disasters” (1958 to 1961), people had to face the death of many family members. In some families, only one or two children survived out of ten. These miseries were ascribed to the thanatophobia of that generation and exerted a far-reaching effect on their next generation.

 

Most of the people with neurosis conflicts have an Oedipus Complex, which means, they have failed to establish a healthy relationship between father, mother and themselves. They were exposed to severe external shocks at the age older than 6 years old.

 

 

Ms. Tao tells that the charges of the psychological counseling service in her center are 300 RMB for a 50-minute talk for regular visitors, while new visitors need to pay 400 RMB. Visitors’ medical insurance does not reimburse the counseling fees. She said it is lower than the average level in Nanjing. Some counselors with less experience of counseling, ask 500 RMB. Visitors with severe symptoms, come twice per week, whereas others come once every week.

 

In China, it is now easier to get a license to work as a psychological counselor. Ms. Tao has such a certificate for her qualification. In the opinion of Ms. Tao, having a license is not equivalent to having the certification to be a good counselor. Many people who memorize book knowledge to obtain the license are short of clinical knowledge, which is critical in the practice of counseling. She accumulated experience through a 3-year clinical study following her Norwegian teacher in Wuhan, Hubei Province.

 

She stresses the importance of experience. She developed a set of methodology in counseling by reflecting upon every case she ever took. However, she avoids applying her experience to her new visitors. “It is necessary for us to keep curiosity for a new visitor, even if he has symptoms I am already familiar with,” says Ms. Tao, “for individuals are distinct, and their psychology changes all the time.”

 

 

Nanjing, Still Water Counseling Center




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.


Beijing, Mr. Jin Xueshi’s Living Room

 

Name: Jin Xueshi

Age: 63

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.

 

 

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the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China