MISSISSAUGA, Canada–When friends Kim Lee and Chris Ang stepped into the Living Arts Centre to see Shen Yun Performing Arts, they didn’t expect to take a step into their past–and find inspiration for the future.
The young men are of Chinese heritage but had little experience with their ancestral culture, as children of immigrants who lived in Canada throughout their formative years. They both recently graduated from York University.
Seeing Shen Yun, a presentation of classical Chinese dance and music that seeks to revive thousands of years of traditional Chinese culture was a “great awakening,” said Mr. Ang, who teaches violin and guitar through his home business.
“I think all Chinese who want to know, and might not understand their culture, will have a great realization when they come to this,” he said after the April 26 performance.
“They will come to a great epiphany about what Chinese culture is all about, how it’s so beautiful, touching, and moving.”
The experience of witnessing 5,000 years of their culture unfold on stage—through legendary stories steeped in timeless cultural values and spirituality, traditional music and Chinese instruments, and elaborate costumes—brought both men to tears several times throughout the performance.
“It was so emotional, so touching,” said Mr. Lee. “It felt so nostalgic. It reminded me of my home country. I just couldn’t help but tear up. It’s fantastic.”
“I teared up, too, it was just beautiful,” added Mr. Ang. “The traditional Chinese culture presented like this–it’s phenomenal. I’m speechless.”
The grandeur and authenticity of the performance sparked pride and curiosity in Mr.Ang–and a renewed interest in exploring his culture.
“I was envisioning my past family generations and how they lived, and the traditional culture back then,” he said. “This was a great awakening for me, seeing the culture presented.”
“I’m going to definitely look up my history, the traditions, the legends, and how they all took place and took form. I’m going to do my research and find out because it’s a very noble heritage, and I want to learn.”
For Mr. Lee, the performance inspired him to raise awareness about the culture and help his family and friends form a deeper relationship with their heritage.
“We’ve got to preserve our culture. It’s very important that we keep this going,” he said.
“I’m going to tell all my friends about it, my family, co-workers, everybody.”
Mr. Ang praised Shen Yun’s efforts to preserve and revive the culture, which was under threat of extinction after decades of oppression under the Chinese communist regime. Violent movements like the Cultural Revolution laid waste to temples, art works, and the very core beliefs that served as China’s cultural foundation for 5,000 years.
“It’s all about preserving something ancient that holds dear, that’s stronger, more powerful than just making money,” he explained, adding Shen Yun made him feel a deeper connection to his family line.
“It’s about your race, tradition, heritage, culture, and family first and foremost, and preserving that, and I really felt it. It was amazing.”
“You are stronger than your individualistic interests.”
“That is what grounds you, and it gives you strength from within to face all obstacles in life.”
He was particularly touched by Shen Yun’s operatic singers, who perform bel canto style in Chinese lyrics. According to the Shen Yun website, the lyrics contain philosophical reflection about human life and contain deep layers of meaning.
“The words really touched me–about finding your true life’s destiny, and your path to self-fulfilment and happiness. It’s about striving towards a higher ideal besides money,” said Mr. Ang.
For Mr. Lee, the ultimate message in Shen Yun was “hope for the future,” and hope for the return of traditional Chinese culture–back to the Chinese people.
“It belonged to the people of Han and we need to give it back,” he said. We deserve 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 is currently touring Eastern Canada. 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 reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.