Watching the Divine Performing Arts performances I became aware of the beauty and high level of morals this presentation demonstrates. The choreography and the movements show the artists' inner beauty.
The dancers' personal cultivation of virtue enhances the performances, making them rich and exquisite. The rich beauty of the traditional Chinese culture is well conveyed to the audience. Divine Performing Arts represents mankind's orthodox culture. Such traditional culture, relayed through the medium of legends and historic tales, enables viewers to raise their spiritual levels. This is one reason the artists' skills can penetrate into the depths of people's souls.
|Ancient Chinese characters: Yan (speech), Yin (tone), Yuan (rhyme), Yue (music)|
What did tone, rhyme, dance and music connote in traditional culture? Looking at the meaning of these few characters might provide us a glimpse. "Yin" (tone) was written in Xiaozhuan, an ancient style of calligraphy, with the character "yi" (one) on top of the character "yan" (speech). The "Dao"(way) takes shape from "yi" (being one). When the ethics of the sound are ordered and are able to conform to the Dao, the sound is then called "yin" (tone), therefore the tone itself means "preaching" and carries the meaning of seeking for higher moral standards. The character "yun" (rhyme) is written with the character "yin" (tone) plus the character yuan. The character "yuan," when discovered in ancient inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells, was formed with the character "bei" underneath the character "kou," with "bei" referring to the tripod cauldron for cultivating pills of immortality, and "kou" referring to the pill after sublimation. The character "yuan" therefore carries the meaning of "ascending through cultivation" from the human world. Putting "yin" and "yuan" together forms the character "yun" (rhyme). The original meaning of "yin yun" (tone and rhyme) is "to raise one's morals in harmony with heaven and earth through tone and rhyme."
The book Shuo Wen Ju Du, written by Wang Yun during the Qing Dynasty, explains that "wu" (dance) is part of "yue" (music). "Yue" therefore refers to both singing and dancing. Shuo Wen Ju Du explains that our ancestors had composed "yue" as a form of worshipping moral values. "Yue" is likened to a drum on a wooden frame. Beating the drum was called "yue." "Yue" (music) is created from happiness, and happiness comes from compassion. Beating the drum to worship the heavens therefore creates "yue" (music). The character "ren" (compassion) is made up of the character "person" plus the character "er" (two). Here, "er" is not merely a number two. In ancient bone and tortoise shells inscriptions, the character, when written with the top horizontal bar shorter than the bottom horizontal bar, means "shang" (above). The character "ren" (compassion) refers to people who have ascended through cultivation. Furthermore, "ren" (compassion) comes from "Dao." Mankind's traditional culture aims to raise people's moral values and raise the quality of life through "yin" (tone), "yun" (rhyme), "wu" (dance) and "yue" (music). The Divine Performing Arts has transmitted the beauty of such culture, as each individual performer's skill and moral character comes through in the content of the performance.
The Divine Performing Arts artists pay special attention to individual moral cultivation. There is a general assumption that their achievements in performing arts depend on how well they have cultivated their character and the level of their morality. For example, David, a dancer in the troupe, said that his training did not merely focus on basic skills and posture in Chinese dance and ballet, nor the learning of classical Chinese dances and folk dancing, but focused on the training of moral values, manners and traditional culture. Ren Fengwu, another dancer, also says that the highest realm of art is selfless. Dancers let go of their egos through cultivation and raising their morals, and they ultimately care about nothing else but the audience.
Vina Li, a lead dancer, says that Western education emphasises democracy and equality, even between parents and their children. The young performers in the troupe who previously communicated only in the English language have gone through a process - from unfamiliarity with Chinese culture to understanding it, and from understanding it to being part of it. They have learnt the meaning of "filial piety" and "loyalty" through the performances of Mulan and Yue Fei. They have formed closer relationships with their family members in the process of training. Nurtured in such an atmosphere, they now conduct themselves just like typical Chinese, with traditional values. This is a clear demonstration that the members of the Divine Performing Arts not only expound the essence of traditional Chinese culture to the audience, but at the same time this enables the performers to change on a spiritual level. The performers' adherence to moral values and traditional etiquette is the very driving force that enables the whole troupe to truthfully depict the inner meaning of each dance and demonstrate the beauty of moral ascension.
The audience feedback shows us how they were touched by and understood the beauty of such moral ascension. In the dance Yue Fei, the hero shifted his feelings for his mother to aspirations for his country and the people. He gave up his own interests and served his country with unreserved loyalty. Although he sacrifices himself, he raises his morals and sets a typical example of loyalty for the Chinese people. It is for this reason that this story has enjoyed such high respect from generation to generation.
Mulan is about a heroine who fought on behalf of her father, reminding people of what was said in a Chinese textbook: "The noise from the weaving machine kept going. As Mulan worked the loom by the window, her father could not hear the sound of the loom for the sound of his daughter's sighing... Of the 12 military orders, Mulan's father's name is listed in each one. Father does not have a grown-up son and Mulan does not have an elder brother. 'I want to get a saddle and a horse, and go out there to fight on behalf of my father...'" Hua Mulan joined the army to fight on behalf of her father and gained compassion through her actions. Stories about her are still widely disseminated today.
The wife of Councillor Chen Wantong from Taizhong County said she really enjoyed the performances and felt an inner serenity. The dance of Yue Fei particularly touched her - for the hero's unreserved loyalty to his country. Ms. Ye also commented that she felt peaceful and happy after watching the performances and would love to watch them again. She said that there is too much confusion and chaos in present-day society, and performances like these expressing the human nature of truthfulness, kindness and beauty, should be shown more often, so that people can keep in touch with these values. Only in this way can we educate and influence people, inspire kindness in human nature and eliminate violence. Only then can people live in harmony, and may society improve and become more peaceful.
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