China’s rich and impressive history through art and performance

The classical Chinese performing arts troupe from New York, Shen Yun, merges China's rich history with today's China to present an elegant tapestry of art that informs and entertains

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WASHINGTON, March 20, 2016 – Having recently concluded its performances here in the Nation’s Capital, classical Chinese music, classical song and dance troupe Shen Yun is continuing on its national tour, with upcoming stops scheduled in Norfolk, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Newark, New Jersey.

shen-yun-1Through Chinese dance, an orchestra with its unique blend of Eastern and Western instruments, amazing soloists and tenors, all of whom have been immaculately and classically trained to the highest standards of their art, the New York-based Shen Yun troupe strives to bring to life the amazing traditional legacy of ancient China through music and pageantry.

Spirituality, learning, discovery and invention in ancient Chinese tradition

The land of ancient China long ago experienced a time of greatness, a time when gracious people existed striving for harmony and peace among themselves. Many great thinkers, such as Confucius, and great doctors and philosophers such as Sun Simio, Lao zi, and Bian chi, lived in those times when a ruling dynasty could last up to a thousand years or more. Yet each era came with its own set of virtues.

Many people regarded their culture as divinely handed down and connected to the heavens. The principles and traditions they held closely gave them strength and courage when facing adversity or hardship.

Each dynasty had its own principles to follow. One dynasty would emphasize trustworthiness, another devotion and loyalty. The dynasties at their finest believed in respect, refinement of character, good learning and moral integrity. One can imagine, what strength and good feeling pervaded their culture at its classical best.

shen-yun-4Creating a legacy based on these characteristics, each generation valued future generations, wanting to hand down noble qualities to their children, including a respect for earth and all its creatures. During ancient times, of course there were still wars, famines and infamous villains. Yet through its classical traditions, China evolved into a diverse nation where much history and legacy had been handed down generation to each generation.

One of the beliefs handed down through the ages was the idea that, through the refinement of moral character, people expressed their inner spirit best through their art, be it dance, music, song and even the things they created with their hands.

shen-yun-5While striving for inner well-being, people believed strongly in fate and that the stars or heavens held all the secrets. Whatever happened to them, they would regard as a type of causal reason behind it, a type of cause and effect (much like Newton’s discovery) and adjusted themselves accordingly, correcting, adjusting and improving their lives and spirits in the process.

Traditional practices were handed down, including as herbal remedies, acupuncture, acupressure, and methods for setting bone fractures. There were also many spritual thoughts and teachings, contained or summarized in volumes like the Book of Changes or I-Ching. Many looked to this book to help them understand the changes happening at that time and to give insight and meaning to those changes.

ny-gala-06Great inventions also came from these times: paper, the compass, gunpowder and printing. Feng shui, tai-chi and qi gong, astrology, astronomy, metaphysics and the book Tui bei tu were regarded as a prophetic tools, much like the prophecies of Nostradamus are by some individuals in the West.

aaa-minghui-sydney-shenyunAll of these are all ancient ways of China and there are too many discoveries to name them all. But they helped man and woman alike to understand their true purpose in life, to understand the changes life went through and why.

While cultivating good character, many Chinese strove to find, to understand and connect with life and its meaning, seeing themselves as an integrated part with the ebb and flow of nature and the universe.

Modern China

But today, when it comes to the traditions passed down through the centuries by the ancient Chinese, few, unfortunately, can be found in today’s modernized China. During the Cultural Revolution, all the “old ways” were targeted for destruction. Out of 5,000 sacred temples, today only 1,000 remain in China.

Read also: Shen Yun: Art, truth, politics clash at Kennedy Center

Likewise, ancient scripture and texts of the sages have been destroyed. Much of China’s past has nearly disappeared. Free thinkers, scholars and academics were all persecuted during the cultural revolution, leading to the eventual destruction of the old ways and the indoctrination of the people into the tenets of Chinese communist thought.

shen-yun-8Shen Yun and Chinese tradition

But today there is also hope. It comes in the form of a that classical Chinese performing arts troupe, Shen Yun, mentioned earlier.

In the 21st century, this performing arts group is reviving their ancestral legacy and expressing it in music and pageantry in its touring performances throughout the U.S. Through Chinese dance, an orchestra with its unique blend of Eastern and Western instruments, amazing soloists and tenors, all immaculately and classically trained to the highest standards of their art, Shen Yun strives once again to bring to life the amazing legacy of China.

fen-shun-7Many who seen this show speak glowingly of its uplifting and cleansing power. It is true. I’ve seen the show three times and it truly is amazing. It touches parts of the mind, heart and soul like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

Today, there is hope for China. But in this case, hope comes in the form of spirit, the old ways, and the ancient Chinese pieties, beliefs, traditions and arts—and not in communism. And those ancient traditions, pieties, truths and beliefs are perhaps most elegantly on display today in the music and pageantry of ancient China as performed on tour by Shen Yun.

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