HOUSTON—Shen Yun Performing Arts brought a profound message to audience members at the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts on Jan. 2.
Just decades ago, the Cultural Revolution and other political campaigns launched in communist China sought to violently purge millennia of traditional culture and spirituality from the nation and its people.
With the Chinese Communist Party still in power, perhaps it’s not surprising that Shen Yun Performing Arts, the classical Chinese dance company with a mission to revive China’s ancient culture, cannot perform in the Middle Kingdom.
Based in upstate New York, Shen Yun has been touring multiple continents for nearly a decade.
On Jan. 2, audiences in Houston, Tex., attended the final round of performances in their city, which hosted the global debut for Shen Yun’s 10th annual season last December.
Kurt and Heidi Westlund were reminded of their own Christian faith when they saw the deep spiritual themes that underscored the performance.
“We are both religious, we are Lutheran,” said Mr. Westlund, who works as a salesman at TXU Energy. “It does kind of relate to some of our beliefs.”
“There are some similarities,” he said, noting the Chinese belief depicted by Shen Yun, that kindness is rewarded by the divine while evil is punished.
Mrs. Westlund, a general manager at a shopping mall in Sugarland, said that Shen Yun taught her more about Buddhism and Chinese faith.
One piece in this year’s performance depicts a scene set in China during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). In the dance, communist Red Guards attack an ancient monastery where Buddhist monks defend their residence and faith with martial arts.
“I think it is a good message of hope for the world as well,” said Mrs. Westlund. “At the end, they were talking about how the dark side is taking over, especially in China. Now if it is not allowed, that is the darkness over there.”
“It seems to be such a big part of [Chinese] culture, and for it not to be allowed there … I am sure it is very devastating for the people, so I am glad they are able to see it here,” she said.
Other pieces in this year’s show depict creation myths and the connection with divinity. In ancient China, a poetic term for the nation was “Shenzhou” which means “land of the divine.”
Munir Shah, a physician with an interest in Chinese history, said that it was very good to see Shen Yun’s depiction of Chinese traditions through the expressive and technically advanced art of classical Chinese dance.
“I think Chinese are known for their ability to execute difficult dance maneuvers, and I think people want to see that,” he said.
“The symbolic representation of the Buddha, and of different ways of being meditative and spiritual, that’s all being represented here,” said Dr. Shah, who runs his own clinic, the Woodlands Sports Medicine Center. He and his four daughters attended Shen Yun in Houston.
“It brings into focus that Chinese have an ancient civilization, very old, profoundly deep culture that is sophisticated, intellectually, artistically, [and] spiritually sophisticated,” he said. “It is good to see that … and this brings that to you, the pain of the Cultural Revolution, and the history of the dynasties.”
With reporting by Stacy Chen and Leo Timm
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.