The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the UB School of Management

Angela Ren

Angela Ren

UB Renmin alumni shine in rigorous competition

By Richard Liu

In 1999, under the leadership of John M. Thomas, who was then associate dean of international education, the School of Management developed and launched an Executive MBA program in Beijing in conjunction with Renmin University. Between 1999 and 2004, more than 150 professionals completed the program, which was designated as the best of its type in China by the Chinese Ministry of Education. Although the program was discontinued in 2004, our alumni in China have maintained a strong connection to the school and each other.

Last May, five of those UB Renmin alumni challenged the limits of their physical stamina during the International Business Schools Gobi Hiking Challenge, the fifth annual "Path of Monk Xuanzang."

The UB Renmin team triumphantly crosses the finish line.

The Renmin University team placed fourth among 10 teams from Asia-wide business schools. Recognized for their remarkable contributions to the achievement were Alex Xu (UB Renmin EMBA Class 1), Robert Guo (UB Renmin EMBA Class 2), Yeti Chen (UB Renmin EMBA Class 3), Angela Ren (UB Renmin EMBA Class 3) and Richard Liu (UB Renmin EMBA Class 3).

The "Path of Monk Xuanzang" competition is jointly held by China Central TV, Chinese Entrepreneurs magazine and Red Bull Sports Beverage Co. The purpose of the four-day event is to revisit the most difficult part of the odyssey Monk Xuanzang of China's Tang Dynasty went through during his pilgrimage 1,400 years ago to India to pursue studies of Buddhist scriptures. Participants had to walk through complicated barren terrains, including the Gobi Desert, alkaline land, Yardang and undulating hills. The point-to-point distance between the start and finish line was about 120 kilometers (about 75 miles), but the actual journey was estimated to be closer to 140 kilometers (86 miles).

Richard Liu, Angela Ren, Xi Liu, MS '11, Yeti Chen and Robert Guo celebrate after the race.

Monk Xuanzang was born in 600 and died in 664. He received a classical Confucian education before converting to Buddhism. Troubled by discrepancies in the sacred texts, he left for India in 629 to study the religion at its source. He traveled by foot across Central Asia and reached India in 633. The most difficult part of his journey was a 399-kilometer-long tract (247 miles) of Gobi Desert in China's northwest Gansu Province, where he lost his water bag but was still determined to continue his way.

After studying at the famous Nalanda monastery, he returned home in 645 to a hero's welcome, bringing back hundreds of Buddhist texts, including some of the most important Mahayana scriptures, and spent the rest of his life translating. His broad knowledge, persevering spirit and peerless devotion to Buddhism made him a historical giant in China.

Yeti Chen, Robert Guo and Richard Liu

Fast forward to the 21st century, as more and more people turned to classical works and figures to seek mental strength, the campaign was launched to revisit the path of Monk Xuanzang. To carry forward his dedication and perseverance, the first "Path of Monk Xuanzang" International Business Schools Gobi Hiking Challenge was held in 2006.

The most recent Renmin team consisted of 22 members who were either EMBA alumni (including those from the UB Renmin EMBA) or current EMBA candidates at Renmin University. Among them, 10 competed as a team and the other 12 participated as individuals. Guo and Liu participated in the team competition, and Xu and Ren took part in the individual competition.

Each of the five UB Renmin alumni played different roles in the competition. Guo was the leader of the 10-member Renmin competition team. Liu was one of the top members of his team, striving not only to stage his best personal performance, but also to support and encourage other frontrunners along the way to achieve the best possible collective results. Xu, who had participated the previous year, coached his teammates and helped them overcome major challenges. Ren was one of the few female team members to successfully complete the entire race with a valid result. Chen was the photographer for the Renmin team and captured many exciting moments.

Some call Monk Xuanzang's spirit "the Chinese spirit." Besides winning honor for their schools, participants gained an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Congratulations to our UB Renmin alumni.

Photos: Yeti Chen