Why some Chinese millennials are taking up the hermit’s life in the mountains

Over the past several decades, China has transformed from a largely poor and rural farming nation to a world power with massive economic heft and a rapidly growing urban middle class. While access to the global economy offers the emerging generation of young adults unprecedented access to material goods and a wide range of lifestyles, consumerism has come at a cost for some Chinese millennials who are seeking something beyond money. With a contemplative style that evokes its subject, the Beijing-based filmmaker Ellen Xu’s Summoning the Recluse introduces several young Chinese urbanites who are embarking on spiritual quests. Through a hermit’s lifestyle that draws on Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian traditions – either for a brief respite from modern life, or for the long haul – they focus on studying religion, meditation and connecting with nature, seeking meaning in what they describe as an ‘ancient way of life’.

Producer: Ellen Xu

Director of Photography: Max Duncan
View at aeon.co

Support Aeon

‘It makes me happy knowing that my contribution to Aeon means it can continue to deliver amazing content for free.’

Charlie L, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Make a donation

Idea/Personality

Is acting hazardous? On the risks of immersing oneself in a role

Samuel Kampa

Essay/Cognition and intelligence

Cognitive gadgets

Our thinking devices – imitation, mind-reading, language and others – are neither hard-wired nor designed by genetic evolution

Cecilia Heyes

Video/Fairness and equality

When does US news ignore a terror plot? When the target is called Islamberg

30 minutes

Idea/Future of technology

An electrical meltdown looms: how can we avert disaster?

Keith Harary

Essay/Education

Bombay nights

In the night schools of Bombay, factory workers dreamed that literacy and learning would raise them to respectability

Arun Kumar

Video/Thinkers and theories

From ‘The Second Sex’ to ‘Gender Trouble’ – Butler’s hat tip to de Beauvoir

2 minutes