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The Falun Gong and Shen Yun Performing Arts

October 31, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 11.35.39 AMI have no opinions on Falun Gong myself (so please don’t email about it!). I post this only because every year many Mandarin immersion programs get sent fancy, full-color brochures about the Shen Yun Performing Arts troupe if it’s presenting anywhere near them.

The group performs Chinese classical dance, though the final piece is often somewhat political and focuses on the persecution of Falun Gong members in China (which can make it a little scary for small children.)

I’ve heard people object to Shen Yun’s statement that it is “reviving” classical culture, as if it were dead everywhere but in their troupe. But that’s not the issue I wanted to address here.

It’s helpful for parents to know that there’s a tenuous connection between Falun Gong (a spiritual practice group that’s banned in China) and Shen Yun, because if they have teachers from China in their schools they might  be mystified by how those teachers could react to being invited to the performances.

I know one mom who bought two tickets to a performance and gave it to her child’s teacher as a present, but was confused at the teacher’s immediate return of the ticket and mumbled explanation that it wasn’t appropriate. The mom was worried she’d somehow offended the teacher because they’re pricey. But it turned out — after some behind the scenes discussions — that the teacher, who was on a two-year contract through Hanban in China, was worried she’d get in trouble if she attended such a performance.

So a little bit of background might help. I have no idea if it’s even an issue for teachers from China as I’ve only heard the one story, but hope this might be useful. I know I myself was initially mystified as what the underlying issues were.


Falun Gong still worries China, despite efforts to crush the sect

In China the movement sputters on. Abroad its profile grows

From The Economist

TUCKED away in a corner on Gerrard Street, in the heart of London’s Chinatown, three middle-aged Chinese women sit on the ground, their legs tightly crossed, in silent meditation. A deafening loudspeaker behind them blasts out a stream of invective against the Chinese Communist Party. Before long, one of them gets up and starts handing out flyers to passers-by. But pedestrians from China who are approached by the woman grimace and dart away. Most do not even bother to glance at the meditators, who are adherents of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice which China banned in 1999 and calls an “evil cult”.

Such a brusque response should offer some solace to China’s government, which has been trying for nearly two decades to crush Falun Gong, a movement that once enjoyed widespread mainstream acceptance. The ruthless campaign, however, has significantly weakened, but not destroyed, the sect. Chinese officials still worry about its influence at home. Official lists of proscribed cults still put Falun Gong at the top. But it is the sect’s activities abroad that are an even bigger, and growing, concern for the Communist Party.

Officials like to tar Falun Gong with the same brush as apocalyptic cults such as America’s Branch Davidians and Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, but it shows no sign of the violent extremes associated with those sects. It is likely that the Chinese government overstates the comparison as a way of undermining the appeal of a movement that it sees not so much as a threat to society, but as a challenge to the party itself. As Carl Minzner of Fordham University puts it in a new book, Falun Gong has become “by far the most organised” among anti-Communist movements within the Chinese diaspora. Chinese dissidents in exile are prone to factious squabbles; they find it very hard to unite. Falun Gong shows little obvious sign of disunity.

Please read more here.


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