Joining the smart people’s club Mensa isn’t a badge of wealth or status in most countries – either you have a sky high IQ, or you don’t – but in China it’s an elite sport.
With a 1.3 billion population you’d think they’d have a plentiful supply of genius-level inhabitants but it seems super-bright people are not singled out. Yang Bingyang, chairman of Mensa China, the self-described “High IQ Society” is the poster girl for mainland Mensa.
To join the elite global band of 110,000 members, you must score in the 98th percentile or above in the Mensa IQ test to become a member. Mensa China is languishing behind other countries however, with only 267 members. And unlike elsewhere, where Mensa brain boxes represent a cross section of society, in China’s members are almost exclusively culled from the wealthy, with jobs in banking, finance and IT. Most of the membership is concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
Yang told That’s Shanghai there are two reasons so few people join in the mainland. “Firstly, Mensa is a new thing here and receives very little coverage,” she says. Those who have a chance to read about it are normally well-educated and well-off white collar or even “golden collar” individuals, whatever that means. Secondly, she says, few Chinese want to join a society with a membership fee but no practical benefits.
It seems many people only get to know about Mensa China because of the high profile antics of Yang herself. She owns a Taobao shop, and is an author, model and sometimes TV presenter. She’s also ranked as one of China’s top 10 beauties on tianya.cn. She’s famous for lines such as: ‘Those who are smarter than me are not as pretty, and those who are prettier than me are not as smart.” Good to see no false modesty there.
Raising the China Mensa Bar
Perhaps more people in China should consider joining. That’s Shanghai quotes recent convert Fiona Feng, whose sister went to university aged nine, so they’re obviously a brainy clam. Fiona, a 22 year old from Shanghai, felt just like her pals except she skipped grades and was always youngest and top of her class. She thought she might be smart, not because of this, but because her sister was a prodigy. Joining Mensa means she now meets interesting people with stimulating ideas. “Mensa provides me with a very good circle of connection,” she says. “So I can get help from people working in all kinds of fields. Normally they are the elite.”
To join, just download, do the test and if your IQ score is above 140 you can join the global brainy set. The test costs RMB260, and RMB265 for annual membership.
Of the 10 to 20 who take the test in China every month, about 60 per cent pass. Mensa International apparently considers this too high, and is revising the test for the Chinese candidates to make it harder. This seems rather unfair. Yang believes the high IQ scores are the result of education and culture. “Chinese are used to solving diagrammatic problems, thanks to their training in school,” she says. “Also they care about the face thing, so unless they have confidence in their IQ, they won’t sit the test.”
That said, the activities of Mensa China are less than high brow, focusing on eating, KTV, and gossiping. Yang also admits its unofficial dating agency role appeals to the top two per cent who presumably are bored stiff by the rest of the population. “Many Chinese men don’t like very smart girls who put pressure on them,” she explains. The current male to female ratio in Mensa China is 4 to 1.
Yang met her husband there - at IQ 182.9 he’s not only the brainiest in China, but also Mensa world record holder for the past two years. She advises other smart ladies to get ahead with a Mensa bloke. “It is important to find a smart husband,” she says. “Smart people are socially resourceful, so they don’t spend time cheating and lying to get what they want,” she tells That’s Shanghai. Interesting - most of the accomplished liars I know are both smart and possess excellent memories. I suppose a high IQ doesn’t guarantee good powers of observation - or a high EQ. Anna.email@example.com