TORONTO—Peter Kent has been confronted with many of humanity’s staggering dilemmas for much of his career.
A former Environment Minister, Mr. Kent now serves as Conservative MP for the riding of Thornhill. Before he entered politics he was an award-winning broadcast journalist, anchor, and producer— covering stories that helped shape the 20th century.
But when he attended Shen Yun Performing Arts on Saturday evening—his second time to see the performance of classical Chinese music and dance—he witnessed human potential at its peak.
“The principles that are presented in the various dances are the highest principles of human nature, of human culture and civilization,” said Mr. Kent after the Jan. 24 performance at Sony Centre.
“It’s a wonderful mid-winter reminder of those principles.”
For thousands of years China had the most advanced civilization in the world. At its core was a spiritual culture—held up by the pillars of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism—which imbued society with principles of reverence for the divine, propriety, righteousness and wisdom.
Throughout Chinese history, the fields of medicine, astronomy, dance, music, painting, military tactics, literature, poetry, the culinary arts, and other cultural displays were guided at their highest levels by these core beliefs—and they thrived.
New York-based Shen Yun seeks to revive this 5,000 year old, divinely inspired culture through classical art forms, namely, story-based classical Chinese dance.
Mr. Kent, who currently co-chairs the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, said the dances were a perfect representation of Chinese society in its prime.
“It’s always inspirational—the dances address the essence of civilization and humanity, good and evil,” he said.
“It deals with the principles and virtues of a sharing, caring society.”
But the China of today looks starkly different than its cultural prime.
When the Chinese communist regime came to power in 1949, it soon began to launch movements aimed at purging groups or ideologies perceived by the Party as a threat.
The purges started with The “Movement to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries” in the early 1950s aimed at destroying the prevailing religions of Buddhism and Daoism. Being an officially Marxist-atheist regime, religion ran directly counter to the CCP’s rule and was perceived as competition for the hearts and minds of the masses.
The “Anti-Rightist Movement” was next, targeting intellectuals, as they could easily analyze and expose the Party’s motives. This massacre of China’s cultural elites paved the way for Party cadres to replace traditional Chinese culture with propaganda.
But it wasn’t until The Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) that traditional culture was almost entirely wiped out. Ancient relics and antiques, calligraphy and paintings, classic books and scriptures were burned. Temples and statues were smashed to dust. Millions of lives were lost, and Mao Zedong’s “Party Culture” took root in Chinese society.
So it is perhaps no surprise that Shen Yun’s presentation and revival of the very culture the regime tried to vanquish, is not allowed to perform in China today—something Mr. Kent hoped would change.
“It would be wonderful to have an invitation to perform in China, I know that that is perhaps not likely to happen immediately, but I would certainly recommend it.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Justina Wheale
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s International Company will perform in Toronto until Jan. 25. For more information, visit: ShenYunPerformingArts.org
The 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.