As the final flickers and flares of the Festival fireworks melted into the ancient stones of Edinburgh, the Art of Zhen Shan Ren had already begun the next move on its international tour. It travels from near the prestigious Royal Mile in Edinburgh city centre towards Falmouth and Sidmouth on the Southwest English coast for more shows in October.
The collection of paintings reveal the tradition, practice, and persecution of Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, a peaceful spiritual discipline rooted in the concepts of Truthfulness (Zhen), Compassion (Shan), and Tolerance (Ren).
The paintings employ both Western and Eastern techniques of oil on canvas, and ink and watercolour on silk, and were seen by an average of 200 viewers each day in the July and August exhibitions in Leeds and London.
City Councillor Cameron Rose was at the private viewing in Edinburgh. He was particularly struck by one of the paintings illustrating the persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners in China, showing police officers intruding into someone’s house.
“The contrasting colours there between the yellow and the black are quite striking, illustrating the background concept and belief,” he said.
“I come from a Christian tradition, I am a Christian, and it affects my life on a daily basis and I see some of the parallels, for instance of judgement, divine judgement,” he said about the exhibition as a whole.
On display are images of Eastern and Western Gods in conflict with evil elements on Earth. Many people viewing the paintings have referred to the religious paintings of Michelangelo and the 16th-century Renaissance painters of Italy.
“I believe in a historical basis for the faith which I hold,” said Councillor Rose, “but seeing the parallels – the dependence on culture, traditional culture, going back many, many years, or many generations – these are concepts which are meaningful to me in the stream that I come from.”
A fellow member of Edinburgh Council, Jim Orr, was also at the private viewing. He believed it was important to let people know about the issues of human rights and spiritual intolerance raised through the artworks, but that even in this country there could be difficulties doing this.
“The Confucius Institute is in my ward in Edinburgh. I would not imagine they would be too happy to help to publicise the problems around Falun Gong,” he said.
Confucius Institutes internationally promote Chinese language and culture but no Falun Dafa practitioners are allowed to teach at these institutes.
Before the persecution began in China in 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) estimated there were over 70 million Falun Dafa adherents in that country alone.
Mr Orr said, “Informing ordinary people through schools, and perhaps through voluntary societies, and showing these films I’ve heard of, people can see about the reality of Falun Gong in China.”
He was referring to the new documentary Free China: The Courage to Believe, which has won the Free Speech, World Fest, and Awareness International Film Festivals this year. The film is not on general release but there have been a number of invite-only showings.
“Here in Scotland the objective should be to enlighten people about what the problem is and what’s been happening,” he said, suggesting the art exhibition themes could be introduced into Modern Studies classes in Scottish schools. “There’s all sorts of ways that would complement an artistic exhibition.”
Mr Orr said, “It’s very moving. I saw some pictures of some victims that I’d seen in the past. When they’re done as portraits it’s very moving.”
The next exhibition is in Falmouth, Cornwall, October 8–19, 2012
Where: The Poly 24 Church Street, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 3EG
Opening times: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (closed on Sundays)
The exhibition then moves to Sidmouth, Devon, October 22–28, 2012
Where: Kennaway House, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 8NG
Opening times: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
The exhibition has visited over 200 cities in 40 countries in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia and Asia since 2004. Its next stop in the UK will be at The Poly in Falmouth in Cornwall from October 8–19 and then Kennaway House in Sidmouth, Devon, from October 22–28, 2012.
The Art of Zhen Shan Ren is a registered charity in the UK and works and materials can be purchased at the venues or from Zhen Shan Ren Arts (UK). Support can also be offered through the website http://www.zsr-art.org.uk
A preview of the documentary Free China: The Courage to Believe can be viewed at
With additional reporting by Rosemary Byfield
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