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Yishi Wang
Founder of Awakan Coffee — Tianchang, Anhui, China

I’m interested in art, photography and freestyle music such as ‘gu qin’ (an ancient Chinese instrument) and hand drum. I don’t like following any script, I don’t like any rules. I prefer impromptu performance. In recent years, I’ve also become more interested in meditation, religion and philosophy. I want to study the relationship between human beings and nature, the point of human existence, and how to live a happy life.

Art’s origins can be traced back to the relationship between priest, human and God.

In 2012, I had a big life change and decided to spend two years studying the history of art. Back when I was in film school, I had a course on 20th century art history and when I finished the course, I found that I wanted to spend more time studying a comprehensive history of art, not just the 20th century. Art’s origins can be traced back to the relationship between priest, human and God. This is how I developed an interest in religion and philosophy, because in the history of art, its source is found in philosophy and religion. I also changed my name to ‘Yishi’ (meaning one and ten) in 2012. I think it’s an interesting name. One and ten are just simple numbers, but mathematics makes up the simple blocks of the universe. Because of my interest in the origin of life, I think this number fits me right.

After school, I went back to my hometown to setup a non-profit library that also serves tea and coffee. Originally, we served tea and coffee with the intent to make a profit to sustain the library. Perhaps it was naïve because now I know that coffee shops struggle to just break even, not to mention to make enough profit to support a library. But I’ve been determined to make it work for seven years now, and I’m so glad that the library is still alive today. In fact, we are slightly better than alive.

My goal now is to be a Sadhaka via my coffee shop.

I think I’m no different from other individuals. We all seek self-awareness and slowly come to interact and connect with other organisms in the world. I once decided to become a Sadhaka—to dedicate my life to religion. It could have been any religion—Christianity, Daoism, Buddhism. In fact, I once spoke with a Tang dynasty Buddhism master in Kyoto, Japan in hopes of becoming a monk. It didn’t happen in the end. In retrospect, I think about what I’ve been doing since then via my coffee shop and how it aligns with my original missionary goals—to spread love, to spread happiness, to connect with more people. My goal now is to be a Sadhaka via my coffee shop.

If I could have dinner with anyone regardless of time and space, I’d choose Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius (孔子), or Laozi (老子). But maybe I’d pick Buddha because I’m interested in Buddhism the most. I want to have dinner with him at our restaurant—I’ll buy him a veggie pizza. I want to ask for his advice on how today’s people should behave in this world, how to approach religion, how to connect with one another.

I believe that if human beings could have more space to spread and feel love, we would have fewer conflicts and wars.

I wish we could put a stop to the commercial and political world for one year to give everyone on earth the chance to let go of their job, take a rest, and connect with people. I believe everyone would feel happier. And after that year when work is resumed, I’d assume there would be a big change in everyone’s perspective. I believe that if human beings could have more space to spread and feel love, we would have fewer conflicts and wars.

The most precious gift I’ve received, I think, is love and enlightenment from the universe via different prophets and words, via my friends and my teachers, via everyone connected. They’re all passing this love and enlightenment to me. This is what I feel is most precious and most valuable.