(Minghui.org) I am from Guangdong Province in south China and I visited the United States for the first time in mid-October 2021. How I wish I had been able to see America, the land of freedom, much earlier! A good friend of mine once told me nothing is accidental and every day has its purpose. So I planned to make the best use of my time on this trip. 

Coming to Shen Yun

When I was 6, my family had a vacation in Yunnan Province. Since then I’ve always enjoyed travel. I’ve visited many places in China, especially after I became an adult. The past few years my travel focus has been other countries. 

Both culture and art are my hobbies. Wherever I went, I would check out the drama and performing arts. Some of the shows I watched in China included Impression of Pingyao, Han Zaifen’s Huangpei opera, Mahua FunAge, Deyun Society’s comic dialog, and so on. But many programs had a low quality and really disappointed me. 

While in China, I saw on YouTube that many people were recommending the performing arts of Shen Yun. There were lots of great feedback and I was really impressed. When watching videos that introduced Shen Yun, I often came across a technique named “body leads the hands, hips lead the legs.” To me, this seems to be body-centered dance essentials. Although I could imagine some dance moves based on the name of the technique, I found nearly none of the Shen Yun artists explained this in detail during interviews. This made me even more curious to know more. 

After arriving in the U.S. and settling down, I went online to purchase a Shen Yun ticket. The Shen Yun performance was overwhelmingly popular and almost all the shows in late October were sold out. Not far away from me, one more show was added in Thousand Oaks. I immediately bought a ticket in the center of the first row – I was hoping for the best experience of the best show in this great venue. 

Colorful clouds I saw when driving to the Shen Yun performance in Thousand Oaks

When driving to the theater in Thousand Oaks on that day, I saw sunset and noticed colorful clouds in the sky. I was very touched by the scene and could not wait to get to the theater. 

A World of the Divine

It took me some time to understand the first program. For the second program, it showed the scene of dancing in the royal palace of one dynasty in China. It looked very familiar as if I had seen this in person in a previous life. As the music started and dancers came out on the stage, I was suddenly in tears, which had never happened before when I watched other performances. I believe the music and dance in Shen Yun had awakened the Asian cultural foundation in me, like spring water sprouting out from the cracked dry ground plagued by long-term drought. I forgot how long I had not seen an authentic classic Chinese dance like this. In any case, this performance was truly amazing. 

As the programs went on one after another, I was deeply drawn to them. I did not move a bit because I did not want to interrupt such a wonderful experience. But my mind was very active as I was trying to absorb everything, both the sound and the scenes created by the programs. I understood the meaning of every program and I appreciated the elegant dance movements from the artists. In my mind I also recalled what I had experienced over the years and all kinds of things I had seen in society. 

This way, I lived in both this world and the world of the performance. The extraordinary, beautiful scene in the theater moved me to tears, since I felt this was spring water for my mind and soul. Compared to the world I live in, I felt like a drought-plagued land that finally got rain. My tears kept rolling down since the second program and it continued like this. For programs by which I was touched more deeply, my tears also increased, which was out of my control. This did not end until the intermission. 

The world presented by Shen Yun was from the divine and it was a perfect one. In this world, the life (portrayed by the dancers) was simple, but happy and joyful. The artists’ facial expressions, bearings, and dance moves were the best presentation of such a life. The artists were very talented and dedicated, and they focused on doing each movement well. Not only that, all artists coordinated well and their movements were perfectly synchronized. Their arms, sleeves, and skirts also moved along. With a slight step, they were able to perform stunning movements one after another. From the Shen Yun performance, I witnessed the harmony of heaven, earth, and mankind, in conjunction with wisdom, the human body’s agility and aesthetics.

I also had a better understanding of “body leads the hands, hips lead the legs.” Together with music and the dance rhythm, the movement of body brought out the smooth flow of arms and sleeves. The movement of the pelvis and hips was also extended to legs, resulting in graceful jumping, flipping, and tumbling techniques. (These were just my understanding, and Shen Yun movements could have more inner meanings).

When examining each dancer’s figure and appearance, one can see the true beauty coming from inside. With traditional Chinese aesthetics, the young men were handsome and energetic, while the young ladies were gentle and elegant. Together with the traditional costume of divine culture, they were all graceful and lofty. Occasionally, some episodes had the scene of a fairyland created by dry ice mist. Watching their delicate movement, I was not worried that these fairies and angels could slip down from the clouds; instead my soul was following them to the divine land. 

One of the dance programs, “Plum Blossom in Spring,” appeared ordinary on the surface, but the overall effect was so much better than any other shows I had watched of this kind. “A Restaurant Tale” described interactions between neighbors, while highlighting the happy moment where people cared for and helped each other. This is what a society is supposed to be. “Ethnic Dance of the Yi” and “Men of the Jurchen,” on the other hand, displayed the various ethnic groups of China. From them, I could see the endless, beautiful land in China, where people live a happy, prosperous life with energy and hope. 

Imminent Danger

When watching the performance closely, I suddenly noticed not all of the artists were Asian. I was amazed how non-Asians could perform the classical Chinese dance well. And I did not know how to describe the wonder and excellence.

Coming from mainland China, I deeply understand the value of a free land such as the U.S. In fact, the divine created the world and all sentient beings. We have forests, oceans, mountains, and plains. Around the globe there are countless plants with animals and insects. All these are in harmony. The divine gave mankind wisdom, not to harm others or damage the environment; rather, we are expected to make the best use of wisdom for people with different faith systems to live harmoniously, together with animals, plants, and nature. Kindness is priceless. The ultimate strength comes from sincerity, kindness, and tolerance. 

In the meantime, I cannot forget how our world is being destroyed. They include deforestation, mountain quarrying, sand digging, river blockage with dams, and reckless killing of animals. At Yulong Snow Mountain, a sacred place of the Bai ethnic group in China, I saw quarries. At scenic reserves, I saw large cement factories. In many places, I also saw rivers filled with trash, polluted water from plants, foul-smelling lakes, and severely hardened and salinized hillsides. 

Priceless Tradition

My tears could not stop. I did not expect a show could show me the divine and teach me so many things. In my heart, there was a voice: when can I go to the beautiful place depicted in the show? When will people’s sorrow end? When will the damage to nature come to a stop? And when will this divine world become accessible to the people in this human world?

The music of the live orchestra also had both Eastern and Western instruments, creating a grand, holy, and exquisite background music for the programs. But when watching the performance, I was too emotional and did not have energy to fully appreciate the music. In the end, I bought a DVD to fully explore it at home. 

Compared to Shen Yun, all kinds of shows in China, including the annual Spring Festival Galas, cost much more to produce, but the quality was rarely good. This is because the producers and players did not know or understand authentic Chinese culture, nor were they willing to pursue this direction. When people forget about their roots and the essence of their culture, one can imagine what kind of effect the performances they produce will have. 

In the performing arts industry around the world, Shen Yun is unique and irreplaceable. The 5,000-year long ancient Chinese wisdom and culture is well-preserved and presented in Shen Yun shows. Ironically, I was unable to see this phenomenal show in China and had to travel overseas to see it. Most Chinese citizens are unable to see this excellent performance. 

The Eastern and Western cultures are different in many ways. They are like yin and yang, or continent and ocean. They also co-exist and complement each other. The Eastern culture once led the world, but the Western technologies have now dominated our society. Nonetheless, the oriental culture and its accompanying ancient wisdom is an invaluable asset of human civilization and they must be passed on from generation after generation. 

Just like the colorful clouds I saw on the way to the theater, the Shen Yun performance served as a rainbow, an unforgettable experience of my life. It brought me new ideas, taught me the traditional Chinese culture, and reshaped who I am. 

I hope to follow Shen Yun every year. It is difficult, but it is worth it. 

This article was originally published by the Chinese version of The Epoch Times.