TORONTO—The world can be found on the streets of Toronto—half it’s citizens were born in another country and represent nearly every race and creed. For those who vie in elections to make decisions for the masses, understanding the cultures of this city is imperative.
On Jan.23, Shen Yun Performing Arts gave several elected officials, past and present, insight into the roots of Chinese culture, in a performance many described as beautiful and insightful.
“I was so impressed,” said Yuri Shymko, president of the International Council in Support of Ukraine, and formerly an MP, MPP (Ontario) and president of the Ukrainian World Congress.
He came to see Shen Yun twice this year, once on Thursday and then again Friday with his two daughters.
“I wish [Shen Yun] would stay here for an entire month so that all of Toronto could see the performance. Just amazing,” he said.
“It was unbelievable, unbelievable. Just fantastic. I learned so much about China that I never knew—a great civilization and a great people.”
For thousands of years China was the most advanced civilization in the world, with a culture steeped in spirituality. It carried a heritage of three religions and a society imbued with principles of reverence for the divine, propriety, justice, and filial piety. There was a belief that good and evil had consequences, and retribution was a divine consequence for wrongdoing.
These values are woven throughout Shen Yun’s performance, something former city councillor and MPP John Parker said he valued immensely.
“That’s a very important part of it—the spirituality of the themes. And the spirituality that has its origins in the traditions that go back for many, many years,” he said.
“You can tell that it’s the spirituality that sustains people, that gets them through the difficult times and gives them reason to hope that in the fullness of time good will prevail. And it’s that spiritual lesson that emerges from, actually, every element of the performance.”
“That’s what is most important in human existence is to have that understanding, and to have that faith, that confidence, that with the right thoughts you can overcome any adversity and goodness will prevail.”
Despite coming to Shen Yun for many years, Mr. Parker said it continues to be an education for him.
“I’m learning as we go along. Each dance routine, as explained to us, tells a story that draws from traditions, from throughout China. And some of the stories go back many, many years.”
“It’s really quite something.”
5,000 Years of History Recorded
Among the many ancient nations in the world, only China’s has managed to record and pass down a documented history for 5,000 years—continuous records, without interruption, even when the country was conquered by foreign peoples.
Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has studied some of it. For her, the connection to traditional China is closer to home.
Born in Hong Kong to a Buddhist family, she came to Canada in 1975, when she was only 4 years old.
“I would like to learn more about Chinese culture, dance, and music, so for me it’s a real treat,” she said.
“The dancing is wonderful and the music is quite lovely.”
She read a great deal and studied 16th and 17th century Chinese and Japanese culture in university, where her study of Chinese culture was through literature and poetry. She knows better than many about the longevity of that culture.
“Not too many cultures can claim that they have been around for 5,000 years,” said Ms. Wong-Tam.
Shen Yun draws on a wealth of Chinese myths, legends, and historical tales from China’s unparalleled historical record. All of the officials at the performance said it gave them insight into China and its people.
Former school board trustee Harout Manougian said that insight was valuable in a cosmopolitan city like Toronto, with its different communities and cultural groups from around the world.
Shen Yun was an education, he said, and he enjoyed seeing the chronology from ancient times to modern day, as well as China’s diverse ethnicities and eras.
“It’s a packed house so you can see it’s something that the people of Toronto are very happy we have in our city,” said Mr. Manougian.
Mr. Parker had some thoughts on why that is.
“Each year it’s fresh and it’s bright and it’s lively. Each year is fabulous—to think that they work up a new show each year with new sets, new costumes, new routines and new stories is just inspiring,” said Mr. Parker.
It’s a deeply moving experience, audiences say. Tears are frequent, and standing ovations nearly ubiquitous. When asked why people were so moved by Shen Yun, Mr. Parker said: “I think it’s the truth that comes through.”
Reporting by Becky Zhou and NTD Television
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s International Company will perform in Toronto until Jan. 25. For more information, visit: ShenYunPerformingArts.org
The 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.