Appreciating the Shen Yun Performance with Soul

Song Zifeng

PureInsight | June 5, 2013

[] Confucius once told his disciple Yan Hui a principle of appreciation with soul. He said that there were multiple ways of cognition that led to various levels of understanding. For example, if one appreciated with just the ears, he would only hear the sound and nothing beyond that. If one appreciated only with the heart, he would apprehend the meaning that fits his mind, but nothing beyond that. When one emptied his mind and appreciated with the soul, however, he would be able to understand things at a realm beyond his notions.

When reading the story in the past I did not fully get its inner meaning. It was not until watching Shen Yun performance recently that I was able to understand the difference between listening with the ears, perceiving with the heart, and appreciating with the soul.

There are many examples like this in the art world. I remember there was a drawing of a mountain and river from the Song Dynasty. It was a traditional Chinese painting and several simple strokes depicted a bridge, a river, a balcony, and a mountain. From the drawing, however, one can easily perceive the mountains from far away, which extended to remote scenes and that connected with the sky. Another example is the drawing of Searching for Plum Blossom while Riding in Snow, by Ren Bonian. It depicted a person dressed in winter clothes riding on a donkey. Although the wind and snow were hardly seen, the snow on his head, the lofty plum blossoms that matched his noble personality and the surrounding white contour highlighted and integrated the inner meaning of the drawing.

It was known that many experiments have been done in the past to evaluate various qigong masters. In one experiment of Falun Dafa’s founder, Master Li Hongzhi, the level of thermal neutrons in his body was reported to be at least 170 times higher than the normal level. The actual level could not be known since it exceeded the limit of the instrument. From this, we can see that such immense energy can be far beyond our perception.

When watching the Shen Yun performance, I had a similar feeling and the impact was more than I had imagined.

I remember when Shen Yun first appeared several years ago the audience was overwhelmed but the art critics were unusually quiet. For example, Richard Connema, a renowned critic who reviewed thousands of performances was one of them. He later admitted that although he had watched countless Broadway shows, none of them could be compared to the Shen Yun performances.

There was an ancient saying that when one meets a truly virtuous sage, he would immediately be impressed by his superb realm. By then, any description of the sage with words would be redundant.

The voices of the singers in Shen Yun may be technically described as voice range, echo, consistency, or fluency. However, the essence in the voice and music, which goes beyond the sky to cleanse heaven and earth, cannot be described.

The digital backdrop is not just merely a gimmick using computer graphics. For example, one does not necessarily need vivid colors to achieve a bright effect, as a good combination of light colors can highlight a more transparent brightness. But such wisdom does not come when one merely performs routine technical work. Rather it is a talent that revives such tools and opens up a new field. Furthermore, the dynamic interplay between the dancing movements and the backdrop produced a superb effect. That was why as the Monkey King jumped out of the backdrop, he immediately appeared on stage with surprising agility.

These are further examples: the music, costumes, to the dance themes, everything was coordinated harmoniously and exquisitely. The dance movements were characterized by angle, strength, curve, and speed. But the finger tips that flowed like lotus flowers and the small steps that moved like clouds, were too subtle to be described in words. That is why appreciation with one’s soul exceeds observing with one’s eyes, listening with one’s ears, or understanding with one’s heart. The performance actually opens up not only one’s mind and wisdom but also the soul.

This is a unique experience that I have not had in the past. In our society moral standards have deteriorated quickly, and traditional culture is on the verge of total destruction—especially in Mainland China. From the Shen Yun performance, I suddenly came to understand how ancient people behaved, from the kings, generals, to other officials and everyday people. In addition, I was also able to realize the open-mindedness of the Mongolian, the joyfulness of the Tibetan, as well as the beauty of the gentle Dai ethnic ladies. I got that understanding very naturally as soon as the music started, as if I was part of the scene.

The appreciation with soul is not only my own discovery as almost everyone who watched Shen Yun had his or her unique experience. That was why the acceptance and admiration of Shen Yun exceeded the eras of Marco Polo or the Louis XIV. In fact, the appearance of Shen Yun may have a higher impact than the Renaissance. As the curtain unveils, it is as if entering a divine land, which is beyond description. That is why the best way is to appreciate Shen Yun with your soul.

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