I consider myself a reasonably cultured person. I have seen my share of art exhibits, museums, theater, opera, musicals as well as more multi-cultural performances. On the subject of religious tolerance I am very open, I respect most religious beliefs and practices, although I am not a religious person myself I can respect the wisdom of whether it be Jesus, Buddha or Mohamed. However, when someone tries to shove their religion in my face, we have a problem.
Tonight I went with my family to see The Shen Yun Performing Arts Group at the Dallas Fair Park Music Hall. I love most Asian cultures, especially Japanese and Ancient Chinese, but my knowledge of current events regarding the current state of Communist China, I must admit, is somewhat lacking. The Shen Yun group is a dance group from New York who perform traditional Chinese dances and tour all over the world. Although that is, until recently...The other day I read an article before seeing the show that Hong Kong had denied their travel Visas and cancelled their performances.
I did not think very much about this until I actually saw the show and realized that the show although featuring traditional Chinese dance does present a very religious and political message. I must commend the Shen Yun group for being bold enough to present their ideals as part of their art but I myself do have some issues in how they presented them.
The Shen Yun group did put on an amazing performance with very talented dancers, singers and musical performances. I myself love the sound of the traditional Chinese fiddle-like instrument called the erhu. There is a surprising amount of technical wizardry involved as there is a sophisticated theater sized video screen background featuring animated scenes of the heavens and breathtaking Chinese landscapes. There is a somewhat ulterior motive to this performance as it is a way for art to protest the oppression of the Chinese Communist Government. I had no idea just how authoritarian the Communists regime in China was, especially after Hong Kong was reclaimed from British Control in 1997 and gained sovereignty. As I do support the Shen Yun's defiance of Communist rule however their show also presents their strong religious beliefs in Falun Dafa a recent and growing, yet controversial Buddhist sect or even "cult" as some may call it.
While most of the show presents very traditional music and dances featuring lanterns, fans and drums. A few of their vignettes during the course of the show blatantly present their religious and political views. Two of their plays were very unusual, if not disturbing. One of their pieces entitled "Nothing Can Block the Divine Path" depicts a group of Chinese citizens engaging in Falun Dafa exercises, when a group of Communist "police" arrest a young mother, separating her from her child and beats her with clubs while the child watches. When the mother is then dragged to a detention center and killed, the father and child watch as Buddhas come down from the "heavens" and take her and destroy the detention center with lightning.
This episode depicting "divine intervention" is not the first as in a later segment titled "Astounding Conviction" depicts a solitary Chinese man standing in Tienanmen Square holding a banner which reads: "Falun Dafa is Good." Soon the police show up again and mercilessly beat and imprison him leaving him physically broken. Soon after, although he is healed and freed by a host of Buddha like figures who bestow him with superpowers and defeats the police.
The operatic musical performances are also not without less than subtle religious and political overtones especially from soprano Haolan Gong who continuously sings the lyrics "Centuries we have waited, Millenia have we longed, Divine beings now walk among men, Creation joyously follows along."
I went to the Shen Yun expecting the typical drums, fans and dragons but instead got more like "Buddha Christ: Superstar"! I enjoyed most of the music and dances with the more traditional Chinese mythological and Buddhism aspects but I question the use of Shen Yun to promote and publicize Falun Gong, which from what I have read is more like a Chinese version of Scientology. Do not misunderstand me, I appreciate art in all its forms and appreciate all cultures. Art is often political or religious in nature and I hope Shen Yun will continue to enlighten those who are unaware of the oppression of the Communist regime on the Chinese people. I only see fault in using it to "advertise".