Self-Help Guru Who Sold a Strand of His Hair for $8,000 Arrested for Alleged Fraud

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Once a teenager without a home wandering the streets of rural China, the self-help guru Yang Taoming’s fortune changed after what he called a fateful encounter with a life coach. By the age of 28, he became the youngest person in the country to own a Rolls-Royce and is now willing to share his secret to success—at a price, of course.

That is the rags-to-riches story Yang, a 41-year-old motivational speaker, tells his followers. Describing himself as the Tony Robbins of China, Yang has written books on wisdom and destiny, hosted classes on the power of persuasion, and attracted tens of thousands of fans across the country by convincing them that they, too, could transform their lives.

But that inspiring narrative he created for himself could be falling apart. Local authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo detained Yang and thirty of his employees last month and are investigating them for fraud, Chinese outlets reported last week.

“He never actually talked about how to become successful, but only repeatedly stressed how people became wealthy after learning from him,” a former student of Yang, speaking anonymously, told the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper last week. The woman was among nearly seven hundred others who joined a three-day seminar on success hosted by the self-help guru at a five-star hotel in Ningbo in February.

Yang was known in China as a prominent figure in “Success Studies,” part of a thriving self-help industry that sprang up after China reformed its state-led communist economy and introduced private business in the late 1970s and early 1980s, around the time Yang was born. Initially, these supposed lessons were taught in translated self-improvement books by American writers such as Dale Carnegie, but a new generation of Chinese self-help entrepreneurs has emerged, and now their books outnumber those by their Western counterparts.

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