I would not describe Chinese people as religious. Yes there are plenty of Buddhist monasteries about but I think a lot of them have been rehabilitated post Cultural Revolution for tourist purposes. That said, Chinese people are spiritual.
When one describes Chinese spirituality they often refer to Confucius beliefs. Now what does this pertain to?
Essentially having Confucius beliefs, is that one must lead not through laws or requirements, but by virtue. Confucius led his disciples to spread the word of moralism. So in modern day, Confucius followers are not religious, but more seeking to behave more morally.
Modern day China is seeing a switch of mentality in this moral ideal. Fitness is taking off in China and as one put it, ‘ While China was once about strengthening the mind, we now are looking to strengthen the body too’.
One company that is encapsulating this like any other is Lulu Lemon. I’ve been to a number of their events and the practice of sweating is seemingly their core belief. Their staff will ask me ‘ If I am ready to sweat’?. Originating from Canada, they are a global yoga apparel brand that has strong ‘better mentality, better life’ marketing. In Beijing they have grown their brand by hiring a fun-loving, fit, approachable team and they host love-filled, active and meaningful Party Yoga events.
In the summer, Lulu Lemon pulled off a killer launch event in the Forbidden City. It was attended by mainly Chinese female youth. I think me and the DJ (MC Yogi) were one of the few Western guys.
Here is the thing.
Why they are so successful is because they are filling the spiritual void that is so apparent in China’s increasingly materialistic world. This is so apparent in Chinese young people. The youth are looking to find a social community and willing to engage with this culture that Lulu Lemon generates. It helps that this culture is international-leaning and is good for your health. Forget that the Yoga Pants cost $80.
Lulu Lemon espouse values like ‘friends are more important than money’, ‘do one thing a day that scares you’, ‘the pursuit of happiness is the source of unhappiness’ which resonate so well with the current climate of Chinese youth who are searching for meaning, lack opportunities for decent wages and whose Chinese psyche is naturally hesitant.
Lulu Lemon is an example of company that has developed its brand expertly in the social context of China today, but I also think it is on a fine line with the elephant in the room, the Chinese Communist Party (‘CCP’).
Heard of Falun Gong?
Falun Gong were a group of spiritual like practitioners, that closely followed the teaching of Qi Gong. Initially supported by the CCP, the Founder, Li Hongzhi, accrued 70 million followers rivaling the total CCP membership numbers.
In 1999, the CCP provoked by a Falun Gong peaceful protest to gain legal recognition declared a crackdown on the group. They saw it is as separate from the state, speaking different truths to the state-line and had by all accounts developed into a mass group. The crackdown by all accounts was quite severe.
The link with Lulu Lemon is through the spiritual awakening of Chinese people who have since forgotten the Communist ideals the party stood for. Lulu Lemon, being a company rather than an organisation, surely evades the same scrutiny and I do not think from memory that Chinese Restricted Companies include Yoga Apparel.
However just me making that link goes to show the deeply communal embracing brand that Lulu Lemon have developed and i hope will continue to their success in the Chinese market.