SHANGHAI – Clients of Ms Huang Xinyi’s Creative Shelter in downtown Shanghai are seeking peace – on their backs and to the sound of gongs.
The group is attending what is known as a gong bath – a meditation session based on harnessing the healing power of sounds.
Recalling her first time at such a class, Ms Huang says: “I discovered there were such amazing musical instruments in the world.”
She had travelled to Hong Kong in 2017 to try it out on a friend’s recommendation.
“After immersion, I realised the universe was telling me this is what I should do with my life,” she was quoted as saying in Chinese online magazine Sixth Tone.
Creative Shelter is one of many businesses emerging thanks to urban China’s latest obsession: mindfulness meditation, which teaches participants to focus on what they feel in the moment.
It has been practised by Chinese Buddhists for centuries but has re-emerged as a trendy way to cope with the stresses of living in China’s big cities as more people find themselves faced with highly competitive academic and work life, long working hours, and an ever- increasing cost of living.
Ms Huang herself is an example of a successful but stressed-out woman. After studying real estate management and later switching to the fashion industry, she spent five years in Paris working for Galeries Lafayette before returning to China, where she opened a successful studio to help European designers enter the Chinese market.
“I had money and a great career ahead, but I didn’t have a life,” she said, adding that with the idea of “giving something positive to the world” in mind, she began a journey that led her to learn mindfulness techniques in Spain and Germany.
She returned to her native Shanghai in 2019 to open her own studio, Creative Shelter.
The business charges 9,800 yuan (S$2,000) per year for its meditation, sound healing and aromatherapy courses, but people are signing up in droves.
It already has more than 500 members since Creative Shelter opened in May.