Ivy League-educated, imprisoned twice in his native China for political dissidence, and now a leading force behind a new hospitality movement, Wang Gongquan has never lived a quiet life. Born in the northeastern province of Jilin and going on to work for the government before co-founding the wildly successful real estate investment company Vantone Holdings, this entrepreneurial poet-activist has ventured into hospitality with his Tsingpu resorts. These one-of-a-kind properties bridge the gap between tradition and modernization, while promoting a new type of rural tourism.
My role has always been that of a coach, to help people in starting a business. And after 15 years working in this role, I had an impulse to cross over to the other side, to start my own business—to go from choosing people to being chosen by investors. I’m very interested in cultural tourism. When I worked in investment, I would choose to stay in boutique hotels, not the international standard hotels. I wanted to experience the local culture. During my investment career, I noticed that the cultural tourism market in China has big potential. I knew I could make a contribution, so I made the leap.
My goal, my view, is that alongside ordinary life, people should have the opportunities to go further, to face themselves, and to find inner peace. I’m an activist, and I’ve been to prison twice for various reasons concerning political engagement, so the government has actually gotten used to me. Some officials really respect me for what I have done in the civil rights movement, however, so they approach me thoughtfully and with an understanding of my values. It’s about finding a balance.
I think that most of the officials respect me because of my work to help people. Every official that works for me does it not for their own personal benefit, but for commercial benefit. I’m just picky who I work with. And this is where the Tsingpu properties come in. I’m trying to create a place, a site, for people to feel the beauty of poetry, to find their inner heart, and their artistic spirit. Xiangchou is a Chinese concept that refers to nostalgia for rural living, and in this age of development, it’s becoming quite a movement, particularly in hospitality. Most of our properties at Tsingpu are built in beautiful mountain or river areas. And at our retreats we will have Chinese cultural experiences to help guests to find inner peace. These concepts come from a renowned poet, Xin Qiji. He has a very famous poem, which goes “When I see the mountain, I can feel the beauty and the peace of the mountain. Meanwhile the mountain can feel my heart.”
The inspiration that Chinese poetry gives me—in politics, business, and life in general—is indescribable.