Shen Yun: propaganda disguised as entertainment

1 Mar

Last night, my husband and I attended a performance at the Long Center of Shen Yun, which was broadly advertised in local media as a Chinese spectacular of dance, orchestral music and song with 5,000 years of history behind it. It was nothing of the sort.
 
Shen Yun is religious and political propaganda disguised as family entertainment, and the City of Austin, Austin American-Statesman, KVUE-TV, Long Center and many others seemingly lent their blessings to this production via ads, financial support and proclamations. 
 

Vignettes featured acrobatics, singing and dancing which conveyed heavy handed messages glorifying Falun Gong, a group banned as an “evil cult” by the Communist Chinese government in 1999. Falun Gong (alternatively Falun Dafa) is a system of beliefs and practices founded in China by Li Hongzhi in 1992. Most of Shen Yun’s troupes are members of Falun Gong, and their leader now lives on the East Coast of the United States. Shen Yun is based in New York City. 
 
 Not Your Grandfather’s Buddhism
 
All this might have been well and good had the group’s beliefs simply served as a backdrop to a neutral presentation of traditional Chinese dance, legends and religion. Instead, the Chinese government’s suppression of Falun Gong was the focal point of the production. 
 
 The songs boasted of laws and principles by which believers of The Way would live in China if only the Red Menace would stop persecuting them. 
 
The dance scenes were often parables, such as a vignette set in a modern Chinese park, where a good woman and her daughter were beaten for their beliefs by evil Communist Party thugs. In another vignette, a young man displayed a sign that says “Falun Gong is good,” but he was persecuted by more Commies, only to be rescued by blue-haired monkish aliens who freed him from his mortal bounds and enabled him to portray his sign freely once again. 
 
Although Amnesty International evidence indicates that followers of Falun Gong have suffered brutal persecution in mainland China since 1999, my husband and I are loath to be entertained by a group whose leader believes that aliens live among us, that he can see through walls, and that mixed-raced marriages and homosexuality are degenerate. 
 
These beliefs seem a long way from the “truthfulness, compassion and forbearance” presented as the group’s messages on stage.
 
The Smiling Divine Presenters
 
Introduced by two inanely smiling bilingual presenters who seemed a bit brainwashed, the singers and dancers performed against a giant video screen in the background, across which gloriously hued scenes of nature, mountains, forests and streams were interrupted by flying spirits who zoomed in and out of view. The beautifully costumed performers moved with precision and grace, and the operatic-style singers in Western formal attired delivered lyrics with glorious vocal power. However, the overall effect of each performance was tainted by messages that left my husband and I feeling “had.” 
 
While some in the audience applauded politely, others like us were at first puzzled and later aghast. We stayed to the end just to see how this charade turned out, but quite a few in the audience walked out at intermission or well before the end. I still don’t know what the final climatic scene was about, but it featured all sorts of costumed characters who wound up waving at the mildly applauding audience. 
 
Suckered Out of $180 and more

In addition to our personal disappointment, we were chagrined that such propaganda is being smuggled very hush-hushly onto U.S. stages in the name of cultural family entertainment, with tickets in the orchestra running at $90-$120 a pop. 
 
The City of Austin was suckered into “blessing” this production via an official City proclamation that was boldly printed in the evening’s program, along with double truck ads by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, among others. 
 
I am disappointed that the City and Long Center allowed this sham to appear on an Austin stage without so much as a cursory investigation into the program’s content. A quick search on the Web would have revealed that Shen Yun is all about the promotion of Falun Gong beliefs. 
 
Admittedly, my husband and I were just as ignorant. We simply looked at the ads and went. Shame on all of us for not doing our homework.

 text from: http://www.facts.org.cn/puop/201009/t118774.htm

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