Shen Yun: A Glimpse of China’s Spirit

January 3, 2016

DALLAS—Faith, beauty, emotion, and the divine—those were what many audience members at the Winspear Opera House saw within the matinee performance of Shen Yun Performing Arts on Jan. 3.

Throughout China’s history, spirituality, drawn from China’s three major disciplines of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, has been at the heart of China’s ancient heritage. But in recent decades, the Chinese Communist Party has largely destroyed traditional Chinese culture, especially this long-standing tradition of faith and veneration for the gods.

But New York-based Shen Yun seeks to revive this heritage with a performance that not only showcases classical Chinese dance and music, but also China’s rich traditions of spirituality, moral integrity, and self-discipline.

Touched by the profoundness she saw in Shen Yun, Mary Doyle, a self-employed company owner living in Grapevine, Texas, said, “It was very emotional, and it’s good to see that God is still alive.”

Mrs. Boyle felt the messages about spirituality were not singular to the Chinese people, but reflected a commonality of all cultures. “There are different types of worship, different ways of recognizing God and expressing love and beauty in different cultures,” she said.

Charles Taylor, a high school mathematics teacher, also noticed the correlations between his own beliefs and traditional Chinese beliefs, which he said are connected by a universal idea of heaven and morality. “Heaven is for all of us. We just have to be good,” he said. “And we have to be fair and treat people the way we want to be treated.”

And this faith invigorates and uplifts people. “If you have God in your heart, you give it out to other people—you give love, and friendship, and joy to other people,” Mrs. Boyle said. “He fills your heart, so in turn you fill other people’s hearts.”

Overwhelmingly impressed by Shen Yun, Mr. Taylor said, “The dress, the movement—it was just thrilling. And I will definitely come back next year.”

Shen Yun crafts an entirely new program every year, thus many audiences members who’ve seen it once like Mr. Taylor eagerly come to theaters to see it again and again.

In a world sometimes inundated with negativity, Mrs. Boyle’s friend Alice Steely, an accounting payroll manager, was happy to see a heart-warming performance like Shen Yun. “I think too often you only think of the negative things that you see and hear, and not the beautiful things and the joy that you have when you see this,” she said.

In reference to the music, Mrs. Steely said, “It’s very relaxing, but at the same time it’s just so beautiful. It touches the soul.”

A Window Into 5,000 Years of Culture and History

Nadya Adler, a data analyst of Russian and Jewish origins, felt Shen Yun opened a window into Chinese culture for her, and she could see the harmony and serenity traditionally characterizing the Chinese people. Historically, the Chinese people have always valued the harmony between heaven and earth, between humans and nature, according to the Shen Yun website.

Mrs. Adler felt that the “Chinese people are very calm and very connected and very balanced,” and she saw this reflected in all aspects of the performance, from the music to the dancing to the choreography. “It amazes me very much,” she said, expressing her appreciation for the opportunity to see Shen Yun.

Her husband, David Adler, who also works with computers, praised Shen Yun for using a cultural performance to take a stance against the suppression of traditional culture in mainland China today. With movements like the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party strive to suppress traditional Chinese culture and its moral values.

Mr. Adler, who normally dislikes performance of dance and music, loved Shen Yun: “Spectacular, I would say.” He particularly enjoyed the orchestra, which combines Chinese melodies and instruments with a Western symphony orchestra. Despite being an entirely new type of music he had never heard before, he said, “I felt it was very appealing and approachable to the ear.”

An Artistically Compelling Performance

Eric Keen, Temple Bonner and their children, Kallie and Colby at the Winspear Opera House, on Jan. 3, 2016. (John Eric/Epoch Times)
Eric Keen, Temple Bonner and their children, Kallie and Colby at the Winspear Opera House, on Jan. 3, 2016. (John Eric/Epoch Times)

Eric Keen, who attended the matinee performance with his wife and two children, said, “It’s a shame they can’t [perform] in their homeland.”

Mr. Keen said he loved the performance for exposing people around the world to traditional Chinese culture. “I think it’s wonderful,” he said.

The spirituality and energy and uplifting spirit of Shen Yun permeated all aspects of the performance, from the vibrant costumes to the euphonious live music to the spirited dancing.

“They do such good work. It kind of just engulfs you and brings you into the dance and the spirit with them,” Mr. Keen said.

His daughter eagerly agreed. “It’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant … It’s really exhilarating.”

Reporting by Mary Yuan, Steve Xu, John Chang, and Irene Luo

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.