Legend has it that Chinese arts and culture were gifts bestowed by the heavens. In ancient China, students and scholars would sit in meditation to calm their minds and inspire creativity. But in recent decades, these traditions have been all but completely lost. Today, where can you go to discover authentic Chinese arts and culture?
The answer is somewhere closer than you might think. In January, the world’s premier classical Chinese music and dance company, Shen Yun Performing Arts, returns to Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The show is a celebration of traditional Chinese culture: a study in grace, wisdom and virtues distilled from five millennia of civilization.
The company’s dancers are mostly ethnic Chinese selected from among top artists around the world. What unites them is a vision of reviving a lost heritage and sharing it with the world.
The journey to understanding today’s China begins 5000 years ago, with the reign of the legendary Yellow Emperor. He is credited with establishing a culture rooted in veneration for the “Heavenly Way.”
This idea of aligning oneself to a higher principle has permeated Chinese life for thousands of years since – from arranging furniture with Feng Shui to governing by Confucian ideals, from following Buddhist and Taoist meditation disciplines to creating music and art that revere the divine.
Fast forward to the present and these traditions have mostly disappeared, wiped out by the Chinese Communist Party’s political campaigns. The Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s was especially devastating – artifacts, books, and temples were destroyed in an effort to wipe out the world’s most ancient culture. Millions were killed and Chinese culture never fully recovered.
Enter Shen Yun Performing Arts. In 2006, a group of top Chinese artists living in the West came together and established Shen Yun as a not for profit organisation in New York. Having found artistic freedom, they set out to bring a long lost culture back to life.
Ever since, Shen Yun has performed in the world’s top venues, taking audiences to distant lands and times on an extraordinary journey across 5000 years of Chinese civilization.
At the core of a Shen Yun performance are classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dances, ancient legends, and modern tales of courage. Dance is accompanied by a one-of-a-kind orchestra, which combines both classical Western and Chinese instruments. Vocalists, bright costumes, and animated digital backdrops complete the Shen Yun experience, one that has been described as both enriching and inspiring.
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You can catch Shen Yun at The Arts Centre Gold Coast on 31 January and 1 February at at QPAC on 3 and 4 February. Get more at shenyun.com.