Shen Yun Demonstrates Resilience of Chinese People

February 8, 2015 Updated: February 8, 2015

DETROIT—Historian Paul Lee believes that Shen Yun Performing Arts has “an awesome regard for Chinese history, for its scope and its depth and also its contribution to world culture. Every time I come, I learn something more about it.” Mr. Lee has seen Shen Yun twice.

Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company, based in New York, is presenting traditional Chinese music and dance at the Detroit Opera House through Feb. 8. Mr. Lee attended the Saturday matinee performance.

Through the medium of classical Chinese dance, perfected over centuries, Shen Yun aims to restore the semi-divine culture established over 5,000 years.

Mr. Lee came with his friend Sala Adams to see the performance a second time to learn more about China and, as someone who drew, painted, and sculpted in the past, to be inspired by its artistry. Now, as an independent historian, he works on various projects—often for public television, as for example, doing special research for PBS’s Eyes on the Prize.

One Shen Yun dance, Scholarly Aspirations, touched Mr. Lee because “the essence of scholarship is discipline and focus,” and he noticed that the movements perfectly embodied both discipline and focus. “I don’t know who the choreographer was, but whoever did it understood what the nature of scholarship is. Beautiful,” he said.

Shen Yun’s dances explore the legends of ancient China, but some depict stories of courage in China today—for example, the plight of people of faith under the repressive communist regime.

“I started seeing similarities with my own history, with my own background,” said Mr. Lee, of African descent. “Not just African history, but also African-American history. It gave me a better sense of the oneness of humanity, and how all people strive for freedom and free expression.”

The two bilingual emcees introducing each dance explained that Shen Yun is forbidden from performing in China. Mr. Lee was particularly touched by this, but in light of Shen Yun’s persistence to carry out their mission, he feels “the Chinese people will always rise.”

“Creative culture has the unique and unsurpassed power to build bridges of understanding, sympathy and mutual support. Therefore, we didn’t see 2015 Shen Yun as merely a chronicle of the triumphs and travails of Chinese culture. We also recognized in it a reflection of our own great and tragic heritage, and that of all humanity,” he wrote later in an email.

Reporting by Ying Wan and Sharon Kilarski

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

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