Shen Yun’s Independent Cultural Revival Impresses Historian

Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 6, 2013 Last Updated: January 7, 2013
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Diana and Arnold Thackray were all smiles after seeing Shen Yun perform at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. (Qian Zhang/The Epoch Times)

Diana and Arnold Thackray were all smiles after seeing Shen Yun perform at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. (Qian Zhang/The Epoch Times)

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Shen Yun Performing Arts imparted the artistic lineage handed down through one of the most ancient cultures in the world to a full house audience at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 5.

Arnold Thackray, a historian, author, and former professor at the University of Pennsylvania, attended the performance with his wife Diana.

“This was very, very, very, very graceful, and very, very, colorful, and very imaginative in what it did, and it gave a glimpse into Chinese ways of thinking and being,” said Mr. Thackray. “This was a very different culture from modern American culture so it was very good to see it.”

New York-based Shen Yun traverses the globe purveying the traditional Chinese culture, one that spans back 5,000 years, is thought to be divinely inspired, and was nearly decimated by more than 60 years of communist rule in China.

Mr. Thackray appreciated the performance even more when he understood that the company is unaffiliated with the Chinese regime (currently Shen Yun cannot perform in China).

“People in the United States need to have a more lively appreciation of China and its tradition and its great historical strength,” said Mr. Thackray, adding that independent of the regime Shen Yun could represent what people actually think and feel.

Ancient China’s science and technology was unsurpassed in the rest of the world until Europe underwent the Industrial Revolution, according to Shen Yun’s website. Innovations that originated in China include paper, printing, and the compass.

“Eras like the Han, Song, and Tang Dynasties are replete with brilliant doctors, poets, and generals who devised medicines, prose, and military tactics that would leave many of today’s experts in awe,” says the company’s website.

China was definitely in the lead and had very effective science and technology, concurred Mr. Thackray.

“We hope that China will again take up the advanced science as well as the upholding of tradition,” he said.

‘Nice and Refreshing’

The performance impressed Mr. Thackray.

“The sheer scale of it, the colors, the rhythms; the thoughtfulness that it was put together [with]; it was just a very impressive performance,” he said, adding the performance “was very nice and very refreshing.”

Shen Yun’s core is classical Chinese dance, according to the company’s website. The dancers are adorned with handmade costumes and accentuated by digital backdrops, tenors and sopranos, and an orchestra that combines both classical Western and traditional Chinese instruments.

Diana Thackray, Arnold’s wife, said she found the costumes to be particularly beautiful.

“I was wondering about the yards and yards and yards of silk that those people wore,” she said. “Oh my, just fabulous, it really was. The costume makers must be busy constantly.”

The Thackrays are regular showgoers and have seen many Broadway performances.

“I am not artistic myself but I was telling my husband that comparing this to just a normal ballet performance, it’s so spectacular,” she said. “There’s so much more to enjoy and it has a deeper meaning.”

Reporting by Qian Zhang and Zachary Stieber.

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s Touring Company will be in Vancouver until Jan. 13, while the New York Company will complete its tour of eastern Canada with five shows in Toronto from Jan. 17–20. For more information, visit


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