Remember watching Shen Yun and being transported to the expansive Mongolian grasslands on horseback? Or the delicate scenes of flowing Water Sleeves? Music is a huge part of the Shen Yun experience, and it’s the original orchestral music you hear in Shen Yun’s dance performances that bring the color of ancient Chinese legends to life and transports us to another time and place.
Many orchestras have tried to combine the elements of Western and Chinese music, and it almost always fails. What does it take to strike that delicate balance and get each element in the music just right? We might find a greater appreciation for cultural traditions as a whole when we dive into some of the deeper understandings of Chinese music.
The ancient Chinese believed in harmony with the heavens, each other, and the world. Their music reflects this view. You might have heard of the Chinese theory of the five elements—namely Earth, Wood, Metal, Water, and Fire—but did you know that they correspond to the five notes on the ancient Chinese pentatonic scale? Traditional Chinese music is based on the concept of five elements and is also connected to the inner workings of our bodies. Each and every tone can positively improve circulation in one of our five internal or five sensory organs.
The Chinese character for medicine actually comes from the character for music. The ancients believed that music had the power to harmonize one’s soul in ways that medicine could not. Chinese medicine has identified five major sounds—gōng, shāng, jué, zhǐ, and yǔ—each of which has a different impact on one’s internal organs and how they function. There is also a correlation between our organ systems and the five primary colors.
Research shows that listening to certain kinds of music has various health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, stabilizing heart rate, relieving depression, and enhancing concentration and creativity, to name just a few. Shen Yun’s composers take this ancient wisdom into account when they create each new piece of music. Not only is Shen Yun music a delight to hear, it embodies the ancient Chinese belief in the importance of harmony, and greater connections among mind, body, and everything around us.
Having the chance to hear instruments thousands of years old, played in a way that fully celebrates and respects their cultural heritage, creates a profoundly fulfilling and joyful musical experience. An ideal opportunity is the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, which is currently touring internationally. Audience members will experience the distinct character of combined Eastern and Western instrumentation as never before, as well as thrilling instrumental and vocal solos.
Two instruments regularly featured in Shen Yun’s music are the pipa and the erhu. The pipa, or Chinese lute, is known as the king of Chinese instruments. The two-stringed erhu is sometimes called the “two-stringed violin.” Each is known for its distinctive sound and ability to express a wide array of emotions and colors.
Inspired by these majestic instruments and this timeless wisdom, we introduce our “Celestial Melody” collection. The collection features exclusively designed silk charmeuse scarves and ornate 24-karat gold-plated bookmarks—a touch of everyday luxury, and perfect gifts or stylish mementos that carry a harmonious and bright meaning.
To learn more about Shen Yun’s music, check out shenyun.com/learn
By Lin Shao, Contributing Writer