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Perspectives in Philanthropy: Philanthropist Ren Ya on Empathy and the Workplace in China

August 7, 2019 - By Caroline Suozzi

The link between mental health, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), human connection and business has never been stronger—and its unprecedented role in China is no exception.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Ms. Ya Ren while she was in New York City with the China Global Philanthropy Institute (CGPI) on a study tour organized by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Ms. Ya Ren is a distinguished professor of relationships (guanxi in Mandarin), including parent-children relationships, intimate relationships, and relationships to wealth. Ms. Ren was valedictorian of her high school, and received a B.A. from Tsinghua University. She is currently Chairman and Course Lecturer at Shenzhen Amihong Cultural Communication Co., Ltd., an AITA International Certified Trainer, and a Gordon Communication Model Certified Tutor. Based on the works of Carl Rogers—the founder of humanism, Mr. Liu Dongxiu—Samsung LG Chief Enterprise Consultant and Business Coach, and Prof. Peng Kaiping—professor of psychology at Berkeley, she has developed a unique self-healing curriculum combining religion, philosophy, modern physics, psychology, and other fields.

A Return to Ancient Wisdom

Ms. Ren understands that China is undergoing a major shift right now. Chinese philanthropy grew 430% between 2006 and 2016, leading many to believe that philanthropic giving in China is a new trend. However, Ms. Ren argues that, in fact, it is a return to ancient Chinese values and she is not alone.

“Money did not belong to one specific person,” Ms. Ren stated. “Instead, people took care of money for a period of time and used it to bring peace and safety to those who needed it.”

This is supported by Inside Philanthropy’s recent article reporting that:

Philanthropy is rooted in Chinese tradition. Descriptions of Buddhist monasteries providing food, medicine and care to orphans can be found as far back as the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC). Benevolent societies and private individuals provided charity in the late Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties. The ancient tradition of Confucianism elevates the value of benevolence (Ren), especially the pursuit of altruistic deeds that bring honor to the family.

Ms. Ren went on to compare this mentality to that of John D. Rockefeller Sr., who was reported to believe that “the notion of the wealthy man as a mere instrument of God, a temporary trustee of his money, who devoted it to good causes.” He once said that, “it has seemed as if I was favored and got increase because the Lord knew that I was going to turn around and give it back.”

However, Ms. Ren believes that this way of thinking was forgotten in China because of poverty overtook the country. “Everyone felt that money was the most important thing because it was scarce and essential to survival,” she said.

That scarcity has changed over the past forty years since the “Open Door” reforms in 1978 and the Chinese mentality is beginning to change with it. The rapid accumulation of wealth in China has resulted in the growth of philanthropy, including the philanthropy of Ms. Ren.

Empathetic Training

Ms. Ren has other insights on current changes in China beyond philanthropy. She believes that the anxieties of Chinese people regarding their families, money and health stem from a lack of communication. She started the Transferring Wisdom Fund in 2014 as a training program for employees to either enroll in or listen to ad-hoc to improve communication throughout China.

Essentially, Ms. Ren’s teachings begin with the importance of relationships. Ms. Ren believes that including your relationship with yourself will affect your relationship with your spouse, your family, your professional development, nature and even money. Ms. Ren considered this model a kind of “positive psychology” that translates to productivity.

Based on the works of Carl Rogers—the founder of humanism, Mr. Liu Dongxiu—Samsung LG Chief Enterprise Consultant and Business Coach, and Prof. Peng Kaiping—professor of psychology at Berkeley, she has developed a unique self-healing curriculum combining religion, philosophy, modern physics, psychology, and other fields.

The importance of relationships is just one of the important factors that is included in Ms. Ren’s seminars. The wildly popular online, on WeChat or in-person seminars include courses on how to be a good listener, how to communicate at home and at work and the principle of wealth. Ms. Ren also draws on her experience as a lecturer. From 2013-2016, Ms. Ren served as lecturer for Shanghai Spiritual Industries, a prestigious enterprise training institute of Wisdom Light Group. She gave more than 30 lectures per year, with an average attendance of 500-1000 at each. Her signature courses included “Mother’s Wisdom” and “Spiritual Miracle.”

Since 2016, Ms. Ren has served as a lecturer for Shenzhen Amihong Cultural Communication Co., Ltd. Her videos have been viewed more than 130 times—an all-time record for Tencent Video. Ms. Ren’s courses include: “Parent-child Rules,” “Emotional Rules,” “Wealth Rules,” “Children of the New Generation,” “Private Exchange,” “The Miracle of Seeds,” “Flourishing China,” “The Power of Classics,” “Opening Wisdom”(a Seed course for instructors), and “Perceiving Wisdom”(a communication course for mentors). Within one hour, her online mini-course, “The Power of Money” reached 80,000 listeners. Her work has inspired countless individuals to embark on a journey of self-growth.

Sowing Relationship Seeds

Ms. Ren’s courses come in a paid and unpaid version that makes her program accessible to everyone and has been very successful thus far. She has noted that employees who enroll in the in-person and online courses often leave her courses with improved mental health and more efficiency and productivity at work.

In fact, many participants go on to volunteer for her organization and even train others about what they have studied. Over 100,000 people have taken the paid version of her course and over 7 million people have viewed her seminars online or on WeChat or attended in person corporate retreats since 2014.

Referring to her own philanthropy, Ms. Ren introduced the idea of giving and success as a natural cycle because her own success, “is the fruit of others work. Now, it is my turn to sow the seeds that will be fruitful to others.” She continued with the analogy and affirmed, “If one doesn’t plant the seeds of their own fruit, then the fruit isn’t sustainable and the plant will die.”

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