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World CitiZen: Transforming China's Generation Z through Zen

Aimer Building, Beijing

Adhering to the principle of exposing China’s youth to traditional Chinese studies and preparing them to become responsible global citizens, Woodenfish’s third annual World CitiZen Youth Camp took place at the Aimer Building in Beijing. The program attracted a dozen of international instructors hailing from America, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Hungary, and El Salvador, and they currently work in a diverse range of professions as well: secondary school teacher, current students at Duke University and Smith College, athlete, movie producer, actor, interpreter, and IT engineer. The team was truly diverse, helping the youth learn from different cultures and cultivating virtues of awareness, inclusivity, diligence, and tranquility in them.

To better facilitate teaching and activities, participants were divided into different age groups. The younger ones played various get-to-know-you games, such as “hand-shoulders-knees-toes,” with our instructors, while the older teens participated in debate and model UN to practice their English communication skills. In addition, the instructors hosted a series of lectures on various topics—such as American universities, environmental sustainability, and artificial intelligence—to offer a taste of different cultures and disciplines of studies.

Utilizing the skills they have acquired during the first few days, the teens collaborated in smaller groups to build a model for a utopia. The project not only intended to provide hands-on learning but also aimed to help them gain a better understanding of their personal lives as well as society. Afterwards, they were also tasked to present their projects and explain their thought process to everyone. It was so wonderful to witness the creativity and compassion emerging from this new generation of world leaders. After a day of hard work, Venerable Yifa led the group for a peaceful and relaxing “Zen time” at night, to foster tranquility and wisdom. Teens not only learned meditative poses but also heard from Ven. Yifa about the difference in Western and Chinese cultures, establishing the right mindset to obey disciplines and laws, appreciating others’ labors, and respecting parents and families. In the end, teens recited the “Heart Sutra” in English to gain a better understanding of Buddhist scriptures.

After ten days of intensive experiences, teens at the camp learned a lot from their instructors and peers. They put on a wonderful talent show—”Creative Zen,”—at the end of the program. Some performed hip hop dances, guitar tunes, the play “Snow White,” the song “You Raise Me Up,” and some Chinese pop music. We received a lot of positive feedback from parents and students about their appreciation to the teachers and future support to the program. Next year in August, we are looking forward to seeing you at World CitiZen Youth Camp!

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