Published Saturday, December 08, 2012
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
Chinese dance, music, tradition and culture will be on display when Shen Yun 2013 is presented in Atlanta in January.
The presentation – which includes colorful costumes and sets and a live orchestra – is being sponsored by the Falun Dafa Association of Atlanta. Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a religious meditation practice that has undergone severe prosecution in the People’s Republic of China.
Falun Gong has been taught in Coweta County.
Shen Yun 2013 will be presented at the Cobb Energy Centre on Jan. 5-6 and at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Jan. 8-9. Information on tickets and performances is available at www.shenyunperformingarts.org .
A decade ago, the Chinese government’s persecution of followers of Falun Gong made headlines. The media coverage has largely gone away, but followers of Falun Gong — and supporters of religious freedom — say the persecution continues.
There is no known Falun Gong group in Coweta County, although Atlanta practitioner Robert Lu lectured on Falun Gong and demonstrated the spiritual practice at the Newnan-Coweta Public Library in December 2000. At that time, Lu said the “cultivation practice” was begun in China in 1992, though its roots go back much farther.
The practice, which has its roots in Buddhism, was begun by Li Hongzhi in China. Within a few years, Falun Gong had gained millions of adherents — and the ire of Chinese government leaders.
Dr. Yang Jianli, founder and president of Initiatives for China, talked about the issue of Falun Gong persecution two years ago in conjunction with a walk held to highlight the problem.
“The issue of human rights is not political. It is not situational. It is not fashionable — something that can be given and taken away by whim. It is the very bond between humans and their Creator. Human rights give us dignity and purpose,” Yang said at a New York rally.
In the early days, word about Falun Gong “just spread by word of mouth,” Lu said in a 2000 interview with The Times-Herald. He said that when a person who had previously been ill or immoral had a major lifestyle change because of Falun Gong, friends and family took notice.
Many began following Falun Gong teachings themselves. In the first seven years of its existence, Falun Gong grew to an estimated 100 million practitioners.
Chinese media reportedly began attacking Falun Gong in 1996. Efforts by Falun Gong followers to explain the practice two years later were ignored. “In China, they don’t allow anyone else to speak out,” Lu said.
On April 23,1999, Falun Gong practitioners were beaten by government forces. A group of 10,000 practitioners subsequently went to Beijing. “They tried to appeal to the government leaders to get this resolved,” Lu said, but were not successful.
In 2000, Lu said he believed Falun Gong was chosen to be made an example. “They wanted to use this to stabilize their power,” he stated. “Because Falun Gong is a peaceful group, they will not return a fist or even say a bad word back.”
This pacifist stance, Lu said, made the group attractive to some opportunistic government leaders. Rather than seek to squelch a true dissident group, which might respond with terrorism, they chose to attack a peaceful movement without political aims.
Lu, who grew up in China, described Falun Gong not as a religion but as a “high level cultivation practice system.” Falun Gong combines physical exercises with readings that have a spiritual component. “The principles in Falun Gong are truthfulness, compassion and forbearance,” according to Lu.
The practice teaches people “to try to do the best you can,” he said.
Lu said it may be hard for people from a belief system other than Buddhism to focus on Falun Gong, but noted people from many different backgrounds have followed the practice. “Some people believe in Buddha. Some are Christians. It will bring people closer to God,” he said.
The Falun Dafa Association of Atlanta has as its mission preserving and promoting traditional Chinese culture by introducing Falun Dafa/Falun Gong and Shen Yun to the general public.
Hai Dong, a Falun Gong practitioner in Atlanta, noted the mission of ShenYun “is to revive China’s 5,000-year-old culture.” Dong said Chinese have traditionally believes their culture to be divinely inspired and built upon a spiritual foundation that includes Buddhism, Taoism and Confucian teachings.
“It is, sadly, also a culture that was almost lost after 60 years of devastating Communist rule,” Dong said.
“As a traditional spiritual practice whose own roots extend back for thousands of years and are steeped in China’s history, Falun Gong arises from the very same cultural basis that Shen Yun seeks to revive on stage,” Dong said. He said the Shen Yun Performing Arts company and the community of Falun Gong practitioners share an “appreciation for and affinity towards traditional Chinese culture.”
Shen Yun literally translates as: The beauty of divine beings dancing. The presentations offer colorful and exhilarating performances of classical Chinese dance and music.
Every year, Shen Yun unveils an entirely new lineup of dances, songs, and musical scores. At the core of Shen Yun’s performances is classical Chinese dance with China’s numerous ethnic and folk dance styles rounding out the evening.
Based in New York, Shen Yun Performing Arts was established in 2006.