What’s Behind Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Divinely Inspired’ Sound

Oct 15, 2023
What’s Behind Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Divinely Inspired’ Sound
After the final concert, of the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra's 2019 tour, at the Boston Symphony Hall on Oct. 25, the audience gave the conductors and musicians a standing ovation. (Dai Bing/The Epoch Times)

Concertgoers often walk out of a Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra concert describing what sounds like a spiritual experience.

“It sounds like it comes from heaven,” said Linda Devlin after a concert at Carnegie Hall with Bill O’Keefe, both longtime fans of the ensemble. “This is our fourth time attending it, we look forward to it every year. It’s just so beautiful ... It’s a peaceful, uplifting place to be, with sounds from heaven.”

Attending separately, Richard Eng said much the same.

“The string music sounded like heavenly music, and at the end when they picked up the tempo, with the drums in the background, it just seemed like it was composed with God entering the picture,” said Mr. Eng, a portfolio manager. “It had me close my eyes and think of heaven.”

The orchestra comprises the best musicians from New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company. In 2006, artists from around the world—including Chinese dissidents escaping persecution by the Chinese Communist Party—formed the company with the mission of reviving 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. For five millennia, this was understood to be a divinely inspired civilization.

On Sunday, Oct. 22, the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra will take to the stage once again for just two performance at David Geffen Hall. Tickets are now on sale at

‘Land of the Divine’

A Shen Yun Symphony concert program includes several classical favorites, plus the highlight of the show: original works composed to showcase ancient Chinese melodies and instruments working in tandem with a full 100-piece symphony orchestra. These original compositions give listeners a glimpse of classical Chinese culture.

Before communism took power in the middle of the 20th century, China was known as the “Celestial Empire” and the “Land of the Divine.” Though dynasties rose and fell, and the people in power changed, some central spiritual tenets remained throughout: the Chinese believed their culture was a gift from the heavens, and sought harmony between heaven, earth, and humankind.

The religions and philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism would have a great impact on the culture over time, each stressing morality and virtue. As such, the concept of “spiritual cultivation,” or bettering your character, was a common idea throughout Chinese society. Poets would meditate before they composed a single line; artists would reflect on their inner self before painting a single stroke.

Shen Yun artists have said in interviews with The Epoch Times that they seek to follow in this tradition, living by the principles of truth, compassion, and forbearance, and placing as much importance on living with virtue as they do on artistry and technique.

Ying Chen, one of the conductors, said in a past interview that “at Shen Yun, we aim for something we call ‘chun shan, chun mei,’ which means ‘pure kindness and pure beauty.’”

“I believe this is a major reason why audiences feel so uplifted and inspired by Shen Yun,” she said.

“Without spirit, emotion, and the other ideas being communicated, musical notes are empty and meaningless. Spirit and meaning give music its life and soul,” Ms. Chen said. “Open up your heart and mind, feel what the music is saying, and let it enrich your life!”

‘Incredible Soul-Searching Happened’

Audience reactions have mirrored Ms. Chen’s comments.

Yvonne Fernandez, a technical director at Madison Square Garden, said she had a life-changing experience when she heard the orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

“It completely made me forget about everything. It heightened my senses. Incredible soul-searching happened,” she said. “It brought me back to a certain state and then this incredible height of feeling and expansion, like anything is possible and everything is possible.”

“I also felt a lot of hope and desires, anything I wanted to do; this music just had me travel completely,“ she said. “A lot of times, I would think to myself, I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

“Just the beauty of it and the magnificence of it, I couldn’t believe I was living this moment listening to this,” she said. “I will never forget this. I will never forget how this felt; I didn’t want it to end.”

Halfway around the globe, Szu-kai Wei, a renowned gemstone expert in Taiwan, had a similar experience.

“The music is truly wonderful and soul-inspiring,” she said. “Such music can only be found in heaven ... it can make people find the driving force of life.”

Jonathan Friberg attended a concert in Chicago and said it was the best performance of his life.

“I felt it deep down inside my soul, like the deepest part of my soul. I felt it,” he said. “It was really, really good—and as soon as the first song started playing I actually started crying, that is how much it hit me ... It made me feel like everything is going to be okay.”