NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / March 22, 2022 / Every year, Shen Yun, the world's premier classical Chinese dance and music company, embarks on its acclaimed international tour, making more than 100 stops around the world. Many see their performances as a celebration of authentic Chinese culture, but with some, it's portrayed as a mysterious organization that some have even described as being cult-like. And why? The answer is multi-layered, starting with the ruling communist party's campaign to discredit the spiritual practice of Shen Yun's founders, and it's compounded by some in the West who disagree with some of Shen Yun's spiritual and historical themes.
Shen Yun is no cult and is loved by many resolutions from the U.S. Congress as they have called the spiritual practice of Shen Yun's founders a "peaceful spiritual…personal belief" that is "accepted and practiced by thousands in the United States." A tribunal with the Canadian Human Rights Commission calls it a "protected creed."
There are various and complex reasons for the disinformation disseminated about Shen Yun. They are leveled by some of Shen Yun's critics to serve a purpose, not the least of which is to detract from the hundreds of testaments from actual patrons praising the performance, and the fact that millions of people around the world have seen Shen Yun.
To better understand the truth about Shen Yun, the following explores its origins and how this has led to misconceptions and false characterizations.
Understanding the Origins of Shen Yun
Originating in New York, Shen Yun Performing Arts was established in 2006 by Falun Dafa practitioners. To understand the origins of Shen Yun, we must first explore the history of Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong.
Falun Dafa is often described as having a direct connection to ancient Chinese culture as it is a spiritual practice stemming from Buddhism that marries meditation and exercises akin to yoga or tai chi, with a moral philosophy centered on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Followers of Falun Dafa place a particular emphasis on personal morality and the cultivation of virtue.
The ideas and practices of Falun Dafa quickly picked up the resonance, given their roots in Chinese culture and focus on spiritual self-actualization. In fact, in the six years following its official introduction in 1992, more than 70 million Chinese began to practice Falun Dafa, making it one of the most popular and unifying practices in the country's long history.
A Movement Becomes a Threat
Backed by a pursuit of virtue and authenticity, as Falun Dafa grew, so did praise for the practice from Chinese government officials. In fact, the founder of Falun Dafa was credited in the official newspaper of China's Ministry of Public Security as "… promoting the traditional crime-fighting virtues of the Chinese people, in safeguarding social order and security, and in promoting rectitude in society." Additionally, officials from China's National Sports Commission at the time applauded the health benefits of Falun Dafa and the cost savings it offered related to healthcare.
While Falun Dafa enjoyed approval from the ruling class through the 1990s, the relationship drastically shifted towards the end of the decade as followers began to outnumber party members. As state-owned media started broadcasting content discrediting the practice, more than 10,000 followers began protesting in Beijing. These protests spurred an immediate and far-reaching crackdown on Falun Dafa, with websites about the practice being blocked on the internet and it being recast as a "cult."
Censorship was in many ways the least negative form of backlash that Falun Dafa practitioners experienced, as human rights groups estimate that thousands of Falun Dafa followers have been jailed, and even killed for their unwillingness to denounce their beliefs and criticism of governmental leaders.
In a short period of time, Falun Dafa went from a lauded practice to an enemy of the state. As practitioners fled persecution, some sought ways to preserve the spiritual practice and its representation of Chinese culture.
An Authentic Celebration
Given the history of Falun Dafa in China and its connection to the country's ancient culture, it's no surprise that its followers sought to revive and reverberate the history of China once they were free from attacks.
Enter Shen Yun.
Through a captivating performance that merges classical Chinese dance, operatic singing, a live orchestra, and traditional Chinese costumes into a visual story of the history of the Chinese people, Shen Yun seeks to revisit the culture of China that has been forgotten and buried. Not about religious conversion or propaganda, the show is the performers' love letters to a China before communism.
"Shen Yun's mission is to showcase and celebrate the essence of the Chinese culture and the universal values inherent in it, such as honor, loyalty, kindness, tolerance, filial piety (respect for parents), and reverence for the divine," says Petrina D'Souza from the Darpan Magazine.
However, it is this reverence of the past that complicates its mission in the present. Given its connection to Falun Dafa, Shen Yun is banned in China. Government officials in various countries have been asked not to attend the show, while Shen Yun tour buses have sustained acts of sabotage. For some, erroneously painting Shen Yun as a cult is a way to contain and reframe history; but for Shen Yun, each performance is a celebration of truth and culture -- one that can not be silenced by mistruths.
To learn more about Shen Yun, its history and one-of-a-kind experiences, visit their site here.
Denise C. Riley
SOURCE: Shen Yun
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