With eyes wide open and heart beating faster than it had been only moments before, the young man reads a story in the Guizhou Daily:
‘In order to help students improve their mental capacity for dealing with stress, Number 1 High School in Guiyang has opened a psychological Venting Room. Principal of the school, Mr. Xi Biao, explained that the Venting Room’s purpose is to help students deal with pressure, particularly in the run-up to the Gao Kao. The room has padded walls and a punch-bag, as well as a mannequin. “When the students are stressed they can go to the venting-room and punch the punching-bag or mannequin.” It is hoped that the room will provide catharsis for those under stress.
‘The Venting Room was proposed by the mother of a former student, who committed suicide last year the night before the Gao Kao was due to begin. She said, “I hope the Venting Room will prevent other mothers and fathers going through the same pain my husband and I have been through this past year.”
‘A local psychologist has said, ‘If pent-up emotions are responsibly vent, they will not develop into more serious mental illnesses”.’
The young man stops reading.
Ten minutes later, he is on the number 48 bus to Number 1 High School. In his right hand is the Guizhou Daily, rolled up.
The school’s driveway and pedestrian entrance, flanked by old sycamores uprooted and transferred from elsewhere, is a gradual upward incline. The young man has walked the path hundreds of times before. When a teenager, he attended the school. Walking, now, along that path, he remembers the daily taunting.
2. In which an entrepreneur sees a gap in the market
Owing to the success of the Venting Rooms opened last year in Guiyang’s High Schools, local entrepreneur Mr. Cheng Xian will open a chain of venting rooms. According to a report recently published, the Venting Rooms have been successful in reducing levels of stress among students.
Mr. Cheng has said, ‘There is a demand among the general population for this kind of service.’ The modern world, he noted, with its various pressures and stresses, is one in which people need opportunities to release and to vent, but in a controlled environment.
Mr. Cheng’s Venting Rooms will be opened next month, with premises in various locations. Each premises will have various rooms, devoted to different kinds of stress. There will be rooms dedicated to men and to women, to different age-groups. Mr. Cheng has employed psychologists as well as feng shui experts to assist in designing the Venting Rooms. More details will appear over the coming fortnight.
… supply cannot meet demand. The Venting Rooms are more popular than even Mr. Cheng imagined. People in their thousands flock every day to vent their anger. They smash TVs with baseball bats, punch padded walls, batter mannequins, unleashing in shrieks of violence their angst about various societal pressures, job-hunting, relationship break-ups, inability to meet mortgage payments…
4. In which Confucian philosophy is applied to a theory of the success of the Venting Rooms
A snapshot survery has revealed that the Venting Rooms’ most frequent service users fall into three broad categories: unfulfilled twentysomething sons and daughters; neglected wives; and those who’ve been treated unjustly by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Scholars have argued that the popularity of the Venting Rooms is “a symptom of and response to of the ills of modern society”. The conclusion of the survey, however, calls for a more rigourous and deep-rooted explanation.
Although hard to gauge and to verify, some Sinophiles have argued that Confucian philosophy is the biggest quarry of Chinese culture. An important concept in Confucian philosophy is li. An abstract idea, li can be described or translated as customs, etiquette or morals – basically, rules of proper social behaviour. Confucius argued that life can be divided into 5 relationships and that if li was present in each of these relationships throughout society, the social order would be ideal.
The five relationships are:
- Father to Son – kindness in the father; filial piety in the son.
- Elder brother to Younger Brother – gentility in the elder; humility in the younger.
- Husband to Wife – husband benevolent; wife should listen.
- Elder to Junior – consideration among the elders; deference among the juniors.
- Ruler to Subject – benevolence among the rulers; loyalty among the subject.
Hypothesis: The absence of li in these relationships is the fire driving people in their thousands to the Venting Rooms. Fathers are unkind. Husbands are uncaring. Rulers are spiteful, selfish and sometimes malevolent.
5. In which a sample of the Venting Rooms’ customers have their say
a. My father does not understand me and is not willing to, it seems. I’ve been back in China for a month now after six years studying in New Zealand. Six years! That’s a long time! I’ve tried to tell him I’m different now, that my mind is not the same as six years ago, that I want different things. But he won’t listen. All he talks about everyday is how I have to get a job here, a job I really don’t want, and that I have to get married soon. But I don’t want to. What I mean is that, ok, ok, I know I’m Chinese, but I don’t feel at home here anymore, you know? Every time I see a foreigner I want to go and talk to them. But my father says I shouldn’t hang out too often with foreigners. Why did he send me to New Zealand for six years then? What did he expect? Did he expect me to lock myself in my room in New Zealand? Never meet people? Did he think I’d return the same person who’d left? No, no, I don’t feel at home here anymore. I mean I love my father. And I know or at least I think he thinks he’s doing the right thing. But everything he says to me just comes across as unfair and unkind. He thinks he owns me, or something. I hate this. I can’t stand it anymore.
b. Before we got married, my husband was a kind man. At least I thought he was. I mean he cared for me, paid attention to me, took me out on dates. But everything changed after our marriage. He began to spend less and less time at home, more and more time with his colleagues. He plays mahjong every night and gambles away most of his wages. I’m also pretty sure he has a mistress. I’ve read the texts on his phone, messages back and forth between him and another woman. If and when I mention any of this to him, he gets angry and threatens me. He says if I leave him he’ll come find me.
c. I’m a farmer. Until two years ago, I’d lived my whole life in a small dwelling in what is now Huang Guo Shu National Park. One day, the men from the government came and said we would have to leave our home, that all houses within the grounds of the park were to be demolished, to make the park “more beautiful” for the tourists, they said. We didn’t want to leave but had no choice. The government said they would give us a new home in the nearby city of Anshun. They said that my daughter would have get a job as a waitress in one of the restaurants in the park. They tore down our house. But our daughter was never given the job. We went to the courts to try get justice but our pleas weren’t listened to. So, the other farmers and I gathered one day at the gates of the park and sat down, blocking the tour buses from entering. We refused to move. The police and the army came. They beat us. We hit them back. They beat us more. All we want is to be treated fairly, with justice.
6. In which the Venting Rooms go national and people replace mannequins
What began as a method of alleviating stress for exam-weary High School students in Guiyang, Guizhou province, and was transformed into a profitable business by a local entrepreneur, Venting Rooms Corporation is now a national franchise and has establishments in every major Chinese city.
Venting Room Corporation (HKSE: VRC) is China’s largest chain of venting rooms, serving around 30 million customers daily in cities and towns all over China. Headquarted in Shanghai, the company began in 2011 in Guiyang’s Number 1 High School as a room in which students could alleviate stress. Businessman Cheng Xian joined the operation as a franchisee agent in 2012. He subsequently purchased the chain from Number 1 High School and oversaw its national growth.
Initally, service users would beat up mannequins. However, in order to make the experience more real and therefore more cathartic, vacancies were created for men and women willing to be beaten up.
One of the Venting Room employees has said, ‘The beatings, although painful, put you into a trance, allowing you to push out everything and dive deep into your mind, finding places you have never been before.’
The young man is intelligent and when at school usually studies well but during exams remembers none of the answers. Only when he has handed his exam paper to the invigilator and has left the examination room do the answers flood into his conscious mind. This happens again and again. He doesn’t know why he hates himself so much and wishes he didn’t hate himself.
People say he’s clumsy is why he often gets scratches and bruises and sometimes a broken arm or leg. He doesn’t believe it’s clumsiness, though. All the negativity in his mind attracts yet more negativity. The negativity in his mind leads him by trembling hand into negative situations. He often watches the happy and contented people. They rarely break their arms or legs, rarely have things stolen from them, rarely get into arguments with taxi-drivers. He wants to be like those people, so much, but doesn’t know how. The more he tries to find happiness, the lonelier and more depressed he feels. Nobody knows about this, not even his family. He can’t tell them, anyway, because his mother is suffering from a terminal illness. To tell his family about his problems would be selfish, while his mother is slowly, agonizingly dying.
He wants somebody to beat him up. This is an impulse he at first tries to ignore.
8. In which the masochist takes the reins, the whip
Alone with himself and facing an alienated and hostile world, the young man applies for a job at the Venting Rooms…