SEATTLE—Shen Yun Performing Arts tours the world with a mission to bring back China’s 5,000 years of civilization and history to the modern world. By way of inspiring dance pieces, harmonious music, and riveting stories, the company takes audience members on a journey through time.
Cindy Mitchell was among the audience who saw Shen Yun at the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall on April 7. She was touched by the different stories, in particular, ones that tried to raise awareness about real-life human rights abuses and oppression happening in communist China.
“I was crying, I was crying a lot during the persecution [piece] … just really got to me,” said Mitchell, who was a senior director of public affairs prior to retiring.
Many of Shen Yun’s stories showcase historical events, myths and legends passed down generation after generation, and even modern day pieces portraying today’s real-life human rights abuses in China like the persecution of Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, teaches “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance” and has helped over 100 million Chinese people today understand and return to the essence of traditional Chinese culture. But the Chinese regime banned the practice in 1999 and has since continued to systematically persecute Falun Gong adherents in China. People who are caught practicing the discipline in China face severe persecution, including torture, imprisonment, and even death.
These stories portray themes like spiritual devotion, the benevolence of gods, good and evil retribution, and the search for the meaning of life, according to the company’s website. Such values are foundational to traditional Chinese culture and are not political in nature.
Mitchell said she found it sad that a performance with such an important message cannot be performed in China.
“It is interesting that you can’t put it on in China,” she said. “That was surprising [and] that’s sad.”
“I think it’s an important message,” she added.
Like Mitchell, many of Shen Yun’s audience members are surprised when they hear from the emcees that Shen Yun can’t perform in China today, despite the communist regime’s appearance of modernization and opening up to the West.
What they don’t know is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees traditional Chinese culture, which is deeply rooted in Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, as its greatest rival.
The aim of the Cultural Revolution, which occurred between 1966 and 1976, was an unprecedented move to systematically dismantle traditional culture and replace it with Mao Zedong’s way of thinking and style of discourse—a catastrophic move for the Chinese people’s identity.
With New York-based Shen Yun performing in over 100 cities around the world a year, the performance is like a window into a cultural treasure that is nearly lost.
Mitchell’s friend, Peter Heide, a retired senior director of forest policy, said he also enjoyed the performance and enjoyed the opportunity to learn something new.
“I just enjoy that, and pleasure and watch the performance. I don’t really fully understand all the historic aspect of it, but that’s something to learn,” he said.
With reporting by Mary Man.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.