SAN JOSE, Calif.—The spiritual elements interwoven into the cultural renaissance of the only culture in the world with a continuous recorded history of 5,000 years pleased Walter Soellner, retired professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Evergreen Valley College.
“I thought that it’s very interesting that it was produced in New York and that it’s very spiritual,” Soellner said after Shen Yun Performing Arts’ Jan. 5th performance at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.
Shen Yun traverses the globe with a mission of reviving China’s ancient, divinely inspired culture, following years of that culture’s attempted destruction at the hands of the Chinese communist regime.
Chinese culture stems from the three religions of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, which have “spawned a rich and profound system of values,” according to Shen Yun’s website.
“The concepts of ‘man and nature must be in balance,’ ‘respect the heavens to know one’s destiny,’ and the five cardinal virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness (ren yi li zhi xin) are all products of these three religions’ teachings,” states the company’s website. “These principles have constantly played out over China’s 5,000-year-long history.”
Mr. Soellner said the performance gives “a history lesson.”
“I think it’s a wonderful thing for people to see,” he added.
For Chinese people, “this might actually be an education for them, too,” Mr. Soellner said. “They may not know that much about their own culture.”
Through a variety of campaigns against different parts of the society over the years, the Chinese Communist Party nearly wiped out the traditional Chinese culture.
“Ancient relics and antiques, calligraphy and paintings, classic books and scriptures were burned,” states Shen Yun’s website. “Temples and statues were smashed to dust. Millions of lives were lost. China’s traditional holidays, rules of etiquette, forms of entertainment, indeed, the culture itself, would never be the same again.”
In 2006, a group of overseas Chinese artists formed Shen Yun in New York. Shen Yun now has three equally large companies, complete with full orchestras, stopping in more than 100 cities worldwide every year.
Mr. Soellner was joined by his wife Sandra at the performance. Their daughter gave them the tickets as a Christmas present.
The dance pieces impressed Mr. Soellner, particularly the presentation of some of China’s ethnic cultures, such as the Mongolian and Tibetan pieces, which she found “very interesting.”
“It was gorgeous, beautiful,” said Mr. Soellner, adding that Shen Yun’s handmade costuming was “absolutely fabulous.”
Mrs. Soellner found one of the unique aspects of Shen Yun performances incredible. On Shen Yun’s state-of-the-art digital backdrops, life-like figures can appearing flying towards the audience. Upon reaching the bottom edge of the backdrop, the figures can suddenly, seamlessly transform into live performers.
“We were marveling at the timing,” she said, “at the perfect timing that it took to do that.”
Reporting by Gary Wang and Zachary Stieber.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s Touring Company will be performing in San Jose through Jan. 6. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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