China’s Rich Culture Alive in Shen Yun

February 19, 2016 Updated: February 19, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Celestial kingdoms, ancient dragons, and battles of force and wit make up just some of the moments of wonder in China’s myths and legends. They are moments Shen Yun Performing Arts brings to life through ancient art forms on a modern stage, in its mission to revive the traditional Chinese culture.

Retired judge Marcus Williams has a special interest in Chinese culture and New York-based Shen Yun “satisfie[d] that on many levels,” he said at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Feb. 18. The curious minded former judge was the youngest in Virginia at the time of his appointment, studied international law, and even taught in China at one point.

Mr. Williams attended the performance with his wife Carmen, a dermatologist and former president of the Washington, D.C., Dermatology Society.

“That was amazing, seeing the depiction of traditional Chinese throughout the ages of 5,000 years. It’s quite a spectacle to say the least,” Mr. Williams said.

The performance presented dance, music, traditional instruments, singing, stories—an immersive experience, he explained. Mr. Williams has taught in China and listens to Chinese music, but still so many aspects of the 5,000 years of culture were new to him.

He had heard a lot about the Monkey King, a character from the famous novel “Journey to the West,” from his Chinese students, and seeing the monkey pop out on stage had been exciting. Another dance showed a folk dance with handkerchiefs twirling and sparkling like fireworks. Another dance, adapted from a poem, showed fairies of the sea spinning fans into waves of water on stage.

“The Chinese tradition and culture is very deep and rich, and very much alive in this show,” he said. Anyone who is interested in Chinese culture, no matter who or where they are, would definitely want to see Shen Yun, he added.

Mrs. Williams was the one who bought the tickets. The couple had seen Shen Yun advertised while on a trip to Florida last year, and when she saw it would perform at the Kennedy Center, she went online and secured the seats.

Dance is a universal language in every culture.
— Carmen Williams

“Dance is a universal language in every culture. So, I especially enjoyed this expression of Chinese culture in dance,” said Mrs. Williams, who danced in high school and college herself. The performance was a wonderful blend for her.

Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company's curtain call at  the Kennedy Center Opera House on Feb. 18, 2016. (Lisa Fan/Epoch Times)
Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company’s curtain call at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Feb. 18, 2016. (Lisa Fan/Epoch Times)

In the costuming and choreography, “the silk and the costumes and the dance, it just came together in a beautiful symphony,” she said.

The music too, was a “blend of the Chinese with the traditional Western-style symphony,” she said, and perfectly easy to listen to.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Williams enjoyed erhu virtuoso Xiaochun Qi’s solo performance of the two-stringed instrument. It was a first experience, and a stirring one. Shen Yun’s website explains that the instrument is about 4,000 years old, and widely expressive in tone and range.

“It was beautiful, just beautiful. So, I look forward to whenever the next performance is going to be, because I know they change it each year, and I would love to see it again. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Mrs. Williams said.

The company cannot perform in China, a country still ruled by a communist regime that opposes traditional culture, but the couple had hope. Mrs. Williams said while mainland China did not enjoy freedom of belief, Shen Yun brings that to light. And Shen Yun tours the globe to 100 cities every year.

“With time and exposure to the world that this is an issue, [things] might change. That’s the hope,” Mrs. Williams said.

Reporting by NTD Television and Catherine Yang

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.

Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.