NEW YORK, NY/ACCESSWIRE/April 13, 2022/ For most of its history, America has led the way in offering sanctuary to those fleeing repressive regimes. Many of these immigrant groups not only thrived in the freedom of their adopted homeland, but often gave back to the world in spades.
Photo credit: Shen Yun Performing Arts
Consider the Quakers.
They not only found a place to freely practice their faith, they led the charge against slavery, securing America’s march toward a “more perfect union.” People around the world have benefited from this march and from the Quakers’ drive to make it happen.
Today, performing arts group, Shen Yun, had the same opportunity in America to share the rich culture of China, which was nearly destroyed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. And like the Quakers, Shen Yun is another American success story – a group of hard-working immigrants who bring the deep wisdom of authentic Chinese culture to captivate audiences around the world.
Looking Back: The Rise of Communism in China
Twenty years after coming to power, Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) enacted the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution with the aim of further consolidating power through cultural, political and academic hegemony. The purpose of the “revolution” was to reaffirm communism and purge “The Old Four”: old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas. In its place was a unified identity based solely on belief in the new system, the president, and the party.
“The understanding of China – think of the Olympics recently – is driven by a primary message source, and a lot of that information is not complete. It doesn’t tell the whole story,” said David R.Stilwellformer Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
China has an incredibly long, complex, and rich history that has introduced many modern ideas and practices to the world. More than a thousand years ago, he established a merit-based civil service system that has served as the foundation for modern civil service systems around the world. It is the cradle of Confucianism, Taoism and a significant proliferation of Buddhism. And it brought us the art of war, deep poetry, intricate and breathtaking architecture, and unparalleled subtlety through ink brush painting.
Yet the long, bloody and chaotic period from 1966 saw a massive devaluation of fundamental cultural principles, experiences and history itself, as well as targeted attempts to eviscerate practices deemed contrary to the national mission. . Educational and art institutions were closed, texts from China’s rich literary canon were banned and burned, monasteries were destroyed, and works of art were smashed.
Sometimes it got horribly brutal. Neighbors were instigated to turn on neighbors. The students reported to their instructors. Defending traditional thought and culture was considered subversive and punishable.
This practice of encircling subversion is an ongoing struggle for the CCP, and its radical implementation comes in cycles. In 1999, there was another similar crackdown under former party leader Jiang Zemin. Many were dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, captured and tortured, prompting a number of cultural champions to flee before they met the same fate. Some found their way to the United States, found each other and started a community.
A classic American success story
Even with its own complicated history, the United States has given freedom and new purpose to those fleeing systematic persecution since the arrival of pilgrims in 1620. Of the few former Chinese citizens who escaped in 1999, fewer were still artists and academics, the most competent and competent. equipped to carry on traditions. However, these torchbearers, each with a unique, lived connection to their story, came together in upstate New York. Determined not to let their culture die, they founded Shen Yun.
They were classical dancers, choreographers, composers, instrumentalists, painters, sculptors and teachers. They aimed to keep their cultural memory not only alive but present, seeking to shed light on the persecution many still face. How does a group like this accomplish such a task? By works of art like nowhere else.
Art, as it is so often called upon to do, has become the spotlight on oppression. The central art form of Shen Yun is classical Chinese dance, a comprehensive dance system that has its roots in imperial court dances, plays, and martial arts. The stories on stage are taken from classical Chinese literature and history. An orchestra harmoniously blends delicate Eastern instruments with the grandeur of Western symphonic orchestration.
The show was acclaimed around the world, resonating deeply with audiences with a deep sense of culture and authenticity that transcended cultural, geographic and religious boundaries.
“You don’t want to look away,” says Milena Hrebacka. “I was very surprised at the depth of the stories and how they developed the characters.”
Word spread quickly, attracting classically trained performers from around the world to join Shen Yun, galvanized by their history and inspired by the mission. They have attracted enough attention that the Chinese government has attempted to disrupt their performances, albeit in rather crude ways — by slashing tour bus tires and pressuring theaters to cancel Shen Yun. This did not deter the company, and their success and recognition only grew, soon rivaling any Chinese classical dance institution in technical ability and cultural depth.
Inspire millions of people around the world
In the 10 years since Shen Yun’s conception, they have become a truly global phenomenon. A total of seven dance companies touring 150 cities on five continents now exist under the Shen Yun umbrella. Academic and political leaders from around the world saw the performance and lent their voices to his praise.
“There is tremendous power there that can embrace the world. It brings great hope.” – Daniel Herman, former Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic.
“I have studied China for 40 years. [performance] reminded me why I chose this… This is the genuine treasure that Chinese civilization contains.” – Dr. Arthur Waldron, Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania.
It is a remarkable feat, capturing “real Chinese culture”. While this may not mean the same to everyone, it certainly goes beyond the claims of a political party.
The brilliance of Shen Yun is the communication of something deeper, something that connects us all on a spiritual, intellectual, and deeply human level. A sense of culture that is not forced, but built by decades of commitment to freedom and truth, a collective offering of shared memory and a selfless invitation to this experience.
Denise C. Riley
THE SOURCE: Shen Yun
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