FULLERTON, Calif.—As artist Caron G. Rand looked upon a painting titled “Organ Crimes,” depicting a young man in China having his organs forcibly harvested, she was “moved to tears by it.”
Rand was one of the attendees at “The Art of Zhen Shan Ren” exhibit and concert in Fullerton, California, on Feb. 25.
“Zhen Shan Ren” translates to “truthfulness, compassion, tolerance”—the three main principles of the spiritual meditation practice Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong. The international exhibition, which has been held in 50 countries, features work by artists who practice Falun Dafa and also highlights atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against practitioners.
The CCP’s persecution of the practice, now in its 22nd year, includes the forced harvesting of organs from live practitioners, to fuel China’s lucrative transplantation industry. The event’s host, Dr. Dana Churchill, has worked for years with the nonprofit Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting to raise awareness of these crimes.
But the event also highlighted the beauty and hope the spiritual practice brings to many amid trying times, and the strength of the human spirit.
Rand said: “Our spirits are what makes us human. This pain that [the artist, Dong Xiqiang] is showing is his spirit in pain. [He] depicted all of that incredibly, beautifully, powerfully well.”
She noticed a letter depicted in the painting, one written by the victim to his mother. It had fallen out of his pocket and lay on the floor by the operating table. As a mother herself, that detail was “heart-wrenching,” she said.
Tony Chen, a Falun Dafa practitioner and critically acclaimed musician and composer, performed at the event. He told The Epoch Times he hoped to share the beauty Falun Dafa had brought to his life.
“Today’s world is very messy,” Chen said. “There are so many different temptations, violence, lies, bad stuff—also COVID-19. I know lots of people are experiencing depression. I hope that my music can bring this positive message to everybody and spread the principles of Falun Gong—truthfulness, compassion, tolerance.”
Chen said his practice of Falun Dafa inspires his music.
“Sometimes life has ups and downs. After some tribulation, after some hardships, normally I will have some new inspiration coming,” Chen said. “I have different types of music. Some are very energetic, some are very peaceful and beautiful. I want to give this kind of a balance of yin and yang so that people can find a balance in life.”
After seeing Chen’s performance, actress Kelly Pantaleoni told The Epoch Times she felt “really inspired” and that it made her want “to create some change in the world.”
“You walk away feeling like you want to do more in life,” she said.
“It’s really important as artists to use your voice for good and use your platform to raise awareness. [Chen’s] lyrics have a lot of meaning. Even the music without lyrics makes you feel something.”
A painting that stood out to her was “Homeless II” by Li Yuan, which shows a woman peacefully asleep with the book “Zhuan Falun,” the main text of Falun Dafa, held close to her heart. Above her, an angel plays the violin.
“No matter what darkness surrounds this woman, she’s just being draped in this light that I believe is coming from the book,” Pantaleoni said. “As long as we do remain hopeful, and we have faith in whatever it is that guides us, the light will always shine through in the darkness.”
Vanessa Browne, a real estate agent and philanthropist, was among the attendees. She told The Epoch Times that a painting that touched her was another by Dong Xiqiang, titled “An Orphan’s Sorrow.”
It shows a little girl holding her parent’s ashes outside of a forced labor camp. Untold numbers of Falun Dafa practitioners have been held in camps throughout the persecution, and many have died there.
“My heart was so moved. [It] brought me tears to see this child that’s now parentless. All she has are the remnants of a very selfish, diabolical, evil government—CCP—that needs to be brought down and brought to justice,” Browne said.
“This is just so moving and heart-wrenching to see these poor people of China that have lived under such terrible persecution to be used as objects and not as a human being. Their dignity has been stripped from them.”
Churchill, the host, told The Epoch Times: “A lot of times, [attendees will] see the pictures and the persecution, and they’ll get angry. They’ll feel like, ‘I need to do something about this,’ and I think that’s great for people. They need to stand up.”
He said he wanted to host an event at his office that would inspire that feeling, but also be “a little bit lighter,” so he invited Chen to sing alongside the paintings.
“I love his music,” Churchill said of Chen. At a similar, previous event at Churchill’s office, Chen sang one of his award-winning pieces, the theme song for the documentary film “Free China: The Courage to Believe.”
“I think everybody had a tear in their eye,” Churchill said.
‘The Courage to Believe’
Johanna Schwaiger, an art teacher and sculptor who was in attendance, told The Epoch Times, “Art has the power like no other media to really reach people’s hearts.”
“A Tragedy in China” by Li Yuan was the painting that most stood out to her.
This painting tells the true story of a woman who lost her husband to the persecution. She sits near her husband’s body, crouched with her arms crossed, “which I find a very expressive way of showing the grief,” Schwaiger said.
The husband is holding a piece of paper that his persecutors tried to force him to sign to say he had given up his belief in Falun Dafa, “which he didn’t do, and therefore he had to die,” she said.
She also commented on Chen’s song, “The Courage to Believe.”
“When I hear it, I have tears in my eyes. Because the courage to believe is really the strongest issue a human has. And there’s so many stories in history where people held on to their belief and didn’t let go. That’s a strength that everybody has inside of themselves,” she said.
“The courage to believe is really the strongest virtue that a human being can have.”