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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dance show risks Sweden China row

Shen Yun promotional image
The Shen Yun show is touring countries round the world
BBC: Diplomatic relations between Sweden and China are said to be threatened by a row over dance performances.

Swedish officials say China is against shows planned for Stockholm and Linkoping because some of the US-based performers have links to Falun Gong.

The spiritual movement is banned in China and accused by the Beijing government of being a cult.

Authorities in the two cities say they have no intention of stopping the performances booked for March.

The Shen Yun - Chinese Spectacular is performed by a troupe of more than 100 dancers, singers, musicians and orchestra from the New York-based Divine Performing Arts.

Performances are based on ancient heroic legends and fables from the Tang, Song and Qing Dynasties, as well as contemporary tales.

The Associated Press news agency says organisers in Sweden include the local branch of the Falun Gong.

Crossed the line

City officials from Stockholm and Linkoping say they received calls from the Chinese embassy saying the troupe was linked to Falun Gong.

"They stepped way over the line. I think they really owe us an apology and an explanation," Madeleine Sjoestedt, Stockholm Vice-Mayor for Culture and Sports, told the AFP news agency.

A Chinese embassy spokesman told AFP that the only aim was to inform the authorities "of what Falun Gong is". The spokesman said any decision about cancellation was left up to the city.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Chinese New Year Spectacular. Photo courtesy of New Tang Dynasty TV


This musical show is a powerful tale of love’s triumph over all roadblocks. From the opening scene where the cast is practically floating on clouds with Angels flying around the stage, you feel that dreams really do come true.

There is pure artistry on the Orpheum stage. It’s part Ballet, part fantasy and pure beauty. The technical wizardry is virtually unbelievable. There is one beach scene where the water looks like it is actually undulating. There are several other totally amazing stunning visuals. It might be a good idea for some Broadway shows to see this show and find out how they did this magic.

Along with quick changes to new costumes, there is dancing with fans that look like flowing water. There is the drum dance (an audience favorite) along with some great Opera singing.

The full Orchestra helps to create a whirlwind evening of music, dance and vocals that follow the History of ancient China.

There are also some fun modern pieces thrown into the mix. I’ve never seen so much talent and precision dancing ever on a stage. When people say “Lively Arts” – this show is it.

AT THE ORPHEUM THEATRE (Saturday last day)

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (Highest Rating) –trademarked-

A dazzling show with a clear message

by PAULA CITRON From Tuesday's Globe and Mail-January 22, 2008 at 4:59 AM EST

At the Sony Centre in Toronto on Sunday

The slick and polished Chinese New Year Spectacular, currently on tour to 60 cities around the world, features both a lot of dance and a good dollop of political statement.

The producing arm of the lavish show is New Tang Dynasty Television, a New York-based, non-profit satellite station founded by overseas Chinese in 2002. New Tang funds Divine Performing Arts, which has been mounting the annual New Year Spectacular since 2004. The pockets must be deep - for this New Year's season, New Tang has hired top PR firms in each city to target audiences outside the Chinese community. It was certainly a mixed crowd at Toronto's Sony Centre.

So where do the arts and politics intersect? The show contains 20 numbers, five musical and 15 dance. Of these 20, six show support of Falun Gong (Falun Dafa), which followers describe as a self-improvement meditation practice. The spiritual movement is outlawed in China, where, according to human-rights critics, Falun Gong practitioners have been jailed and tortured.

(New Tang has admitted that some Falun Gong practitioners work for the media company, but it denies an official association with the movement.)

Four songs in the show have lyrics that exhort the listener to be both better aware of tyranny and make a stand against oppression. The two dance dramas, The Risen Lotus Flower and The Power of Awareness, depict, respectively, three courageous young Falun Gong women being beaten in prison and a group of Falun Gong followers resisting the police in a park.

Needless to say, none of the battalion of choreographers and composers listed in the program currently lives in China. This is a show where the artistic team is all expatriates and the performers are ethnic Chinese born mostly in foreign climes. There are a considerable number of Canadian Chinese in the cast.

The show is certainly a spectacle. The production values are grand in terms of costumes and scenic effects, and the performers are all very good-looking and meticulously disciplined.

The choreography is based on traditional movement from classical Chinese dance, such as little running steps, angled bodies, knee raises, abrupt poses and showy gymnastics. The core of the style is how the 16 or so dancers are put in patterns to get the maximum beauty out of their stage picture.

There are folk dances from Tibet and Mongolia for both the female (graceful) and male (athletic) ensembles, a traditional fan dance and long-sleeve dance, drum dances, a Manchu court dance on tiny shoes and dance dramas. In the latter, an ambitious Confucian scholar receives enlightenment from a Taoist (A Vanished Dream), while two modern "gangsta" street youths (one in a Mohawk) are embraced by Buddhist reverence (The Fruits of Goodness).

Nymphs of the Sea, where each of the winsome young women holds a fan with a long train of blue silk, got the most enthusiastic audience reaction. When they wave the fans standing closely together, the material actually looks like a rippling waterfall.

The lush and tuneful original music is a fusion, layering a Western orchestra with traditional Chinese instruments. This show is performed to tape, but the banks of sound equipment are state-of-the-art, and the Sony Centre has never seemed so full and sweeping to the ear. The four opera singers are very accomplished, as is young pianist Yan Li.

An amiable duo, Leeshai Lemish and the glamorously gowned Mei Zhou, play host, introducing each number in both Chinese and English, and while their banter is contrived, it is also rather amusing. Yes, the show makes a political statement, but the audience certainly gets its money's worth in entertainment.

Chinese New Year Spectacular will tour to Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in the spring.

Montreal Newspaper a Voice for Chinese Regime

Police probe claims that Les Presses Chinoises is inciting hate against Falun Gong
By Mark Morgan
Jul 06, 2007

Les Presses Chinoises and anti-Falun Gong tabloid papers. (Internet photo)">
Crescent Chau, publisher of Montreal-based Chinese newspaper Les Presses Chinoises and anti-Falun Gong tabloid papers. (Internet photo)

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TORONTO—In August of last year, Montreal newspaper publisher Crescent Chau somehow drummed up the funds to print 100,000 copies of a special 32-page tabloid—without a single advertisement—and distributed it nationwide, for free.

The newspaper was not only missing ads; it was also devoid of typical news. All 32 pages were packed with articles condemning the Falun Gong spiritual group, which is persecuted by the communist regime in Mainland China.

It was quite an achievement for Chau, whose own Chinese-language newspaper, Les Presses Chinoises, has a circulation of only 6000 and is limited in its distribution to Montreal. About 100 copies are circulated in Ottawa.

But it did not surprise Chen Yonglin, a former diplomat at the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia who recently visited Canada and warned that Chinese spies and front organizations are widespread here, including those targeting groups persecuted by the regime in China.

"It is clear that the Les Presses Chinoises is cooperating with the Chinese embassy and consulate and has become the hatchetman and propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party here," Chen says.

"It is very likely that the printing costs were directly funded by the Chinese embassy and consulate—the contents seem to be mostly produced and provided by the CCP."

Chen supports his claims with a document from the Chinese consulate in Sydney.

Titled the "Special Anti-Falun Gong Working Group Division of Labour Table" and dated February 7, 2001, it lists the responsibilities for members of the anti-Falun Gong team, which included the heads of all sections at the consulate.

For example, the head of the political affairs department was responsible for "recommending" anti-Falun Gong articles from state-run media in China for use in Chinese-language media overseas and writing anti-Falun Gong articles for publishing in Chinese-language media.

The head of the culture department was charged with sending such articles to politicians and media.

Toronto police question Lu Ping over his delivery of Crescent Chau's latest anti-Falun Gong tabloid on June 30, 2007 at the Asian Farm grocery store in northeast Toronto. (NTDTV)
Toronto police question Lu Ping over his delivery of Crescent Chau's latest anti-Falun Gong tabloid on June 30, 2007 at the Asian Farm grocery store in northeast Toronto. (NTDTV)

Chau denies he is taking orders from the Chinese authorities. He portrays his opposition to Falun Gong as a personal "crusade."

While Chau says he aspires to eliminate Falun Gong in Canada, he admits not having interviewed Falun Gong practitioners for the stories he published, nor having read Falun Gong's teachings.

He rejects that he has been paid to publish his anti-Falun Gong newspapers.

But according to other Chinese-language media in Montreal, the source of Chau's first anti-Falun Gong articles, a woman named He Bing, had offered to pay "whatever it takes" to have her anti-Falun Gong articles published in Chinese-language press. Reliable sources told The Epoch Times that CSIS had investigated He and believed her to be a Chinese agent.

Several other Chinese papers reportedly turned her down before her articles appeared in Chau's Les Presses Chinoises.

In her articles, which appeared first as paid ads, He Bing accused Falun Gong adherents of everything from sucking blood and bestiality to murder and suicide. She called Falun Gong practitioners "insane," "stupid," and "scatter-brained."

University of Montreal professor David Ownby, an expert in popular Chinese religions who has studied Falun Gong, called the statements "unsubstantiated filth poured upon the page" and said he'd seen nothing to suggest any truth behind He's accusations.

But Chau continued to publish such content even after two Quebec court orders told him stop, even calling practitioners "enemies of the state."

In Feb. 2001, Chau published his first anti-Falun Gong special edition, which included a petition rallying the Chinese community to "unite" in "denouncing Falun Gong."

He Bing returned to China and was paraded in Chinese state media as a hero in the war on Falun Gong.

Chau, too, became a celebrity of sorts in the Mainland Chinese press. He attended conferences in China that promoted "information exchange and business cooperation" between overseas and mainland Chinese media. State media quoted Chau as saying the Chinese regime "should strengthen its connection to the overseas Chinese community."

And Chau's anti-Falun Gong efforts were reported in national media in China, which referred to Les Presses Chinoises not as a local Montreal newspaper but as "Canada's Les Presses Chinoises. "

The coverage of Chau was so overwhelming that some Mainland Chinese thought the Canadian government had also banned Falun Gong.

"My parents in China were worried for me," said Yang Hui, one of the Montreal-area Falun Gong practitioners who were named in Chau's articles. "They saw all the reports and thought that Canada had started to persecute Falun Gong too."

In August 2006, Chau published his first nationwide anti-Falun Gong paper, with copies circulated as far west as Vancouver.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. Within four days of the "special edition" hitting the streets, the website for the Mainland China-based People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published a report praising Chau.

"The Justice Special Edition [the paper also bore the English name Truth Magazine ] has 32 pages with a distribution of more than 100,000 copies," the People's Daily said. "The front page carries publisher Crescent Chau's special article … It is very sharp, rich in content, and powerful."

In it Chau parroted the Chinese regime's official line on Falun Gong, accusing the group of everything from shunning medical treatment to murder and suicide.

Such claims are groundless, say human rights groups like Human Rights Watch, but they have been used to justify the regime's violent repression of the group, which began in 1999.

Chau used these claims to rally opposition to Falun Gong in Canada.

"Everyone should join in the efforts to fight against Falun Gong," wrote Chau. "We must unite together to condemn [Falun Gong founder] Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong."

Truth Magazine, an anti-Falun Gong newspaper that is being called hate propaganda. (NTDTV)">
Lu Ping shown in front of his Dodge Grand Caravan filled with bundles of Truth Magazine, an anti-Falun Gong newspaper that is being called hate propaganda. (NTDTV)

New Approach

Last week, the fourth installment of Chau's Truth Magazine hit the streets in Toronto. As with the previous three, it comes on the heels of some particularly bad press for the Chinese regime.

One previous edition was published after former secretary of state for Asia Pacific, David Kilgour, and lawyer David Matas released a report concluding that the Chinese communist regime was stealing organs from live Falun Gong practitioners detained in China for sale in a lucrative organ trade.

Another came as a Chinese-language television station, New Tang Dynasty Television, put on a prominent Chinese New Year show that included one act depicting the persecution of Falun Gong in China. That one was also delivered to Canadian members of parliament.

This time, the special edition followed the visit of the former diplomat Chen who described the Chinese front organizations in Canada, citing in particular the Nation Congress of Chinese Canadians (NCCC).

The latest edition is 16 pages and makes no mention of Falun Gong on the cover. In its place is a large headline: "Will your Maple Card (Canadian residency card) expire?" But inside, the remaining 15 pages are devoted to attacking Falun Gong.

This issue repeats many of the same slurs against Falun Gong. It also takes aim at Chen and at The Epoch Times, which reported Chen's comments, and defends prominent NCCC leaders that were named in the Epoch Times report.

Chau calls on Chinese-Canadians to "unite to conquer" what he calls the "evil" Falun Gong and Chen Yonglin.

Curiously, though Chau's publishing company resides in Montreal, the latest ,I>Truth Magazine appears to have been distributed only in Toronto, where the three NCCC leaders named in the Epoch Times report—David Lim, Hughes Eng, and Ping Tan—reside.

Police Involvement

And from there, the links become more curious.

Since the August 2006 issue of Truth Magazine hit the streets, police in several Canadian cities have been looking into whether the papers qualify as hate propaganda.

On Saturday afternoon, Toronto police confronted a Truth Magazine deliveryman at a Chinese grocery store in the northeast of the city. He gave his name as Lu Ping.

The police asked Lu who had hired him to deliver the newspapers. Lu reluctantly provided the name and phone number of Ms. Li Miao of Canyon Web Printing.

Canyon Web Printing happens to have the same address and phone number as those listed on for the Chinese Canadian Post, which is owned by NCCC Executive Secretary David Lim.

Ms. Li, for her part, is listed as the contact for an upcoming event organized by NCCC National Co-Chair Hughes Eng and supported by the Chinese embassy's culture section.


But aside from some investigation by police, little has been done to stop the disparaging reports.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal found in a separate case that Falun Gong "is a protected creed" as its essence is spiritual elevation. But to date, police have not used such grounds to lay charges.

A Montreal police sergeant who spoke with The Epoch Times last year cited sensitivities in investigating Mr. Chau because of his prominence in the Chinese community.

A trial court in Montreal said that Mr. Chau was exercising his freedom of speech in publishing the slurs, a decision that is now being appealed.

But all this has made members of Canada's Falun Gong community feel they are not being protected.

"I believe if such slanders were directed at another group in our society, it would not be tolerated," says Ottawa Falun Gong practitioner Lucy Zhou. "It seems like because this has to do with China, people can get away with saying anything about us and it's OK.

"Crescent Chau has incited hate against us for five years with impunity. I feel the system is failing us."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I, Too, Have a Dream

Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Sen Yang
Jan 23, 2008

President Clinton, Governor Huckabee, Senator Isakson, Mayer Franklin, and all honorable guests:

In 1992, I started my graduate study at Georgia Tech. I landed in Atlanta, a great city best known as the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am honored to call this great city my second home in honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And "Georgia is on my mind".

But when I first arrived, I knew little about Dr. King. I very much wanted to return to China. Everything was so unfamiliar to me. But then I noticed something I had never before experienced.

I noticed that people in this country could say what they think without being arrested by the thought police. I noticed that people went to church on Sundays and that all people were free to practice their religion. I never saw people being arrested for bible study or for trying to be good and kind citizens of this country.

There was only one word that could describe my feeling: Freedom.

At first, I thoughts these freedoms were easily achieved in the United States. But then as I studied U.S. history, I learned about Martin Luther King Jr., one of the main leaders of the American civil rights movement. I read Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech," and started to have my own dream.

I talked with a friend in China. He asked me what greatest thing was in US. I told him it was "freedom" I enjoy the most. He replied: "You are rich and we are poor. We will chase after 'freedom' when we get more money." I told my friend: "You don't need to be rich to fight for the right to be free." I told him that Dr. King fought for the freedom not because he was rich, but because he had the heart.

I lived in China for 31 years and now in this country for 15 years. I love China and I love the people in China. I want them to be respected and live like human beings. I want them to enjoy the same inalienable rights that God has given to all his people, not only in the United States, but everywhere.

Inspired by Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech," I thank him for the sacrifices he endured to help all people in the United States become free. His life is an example for all people everywhere who have a dream of freedom, even me – a humble physicist happy to live as a free man in this country. I too have a dream.

I dream that all people in China will have freedom of thoughts and that they won't have to endure persecution (torture, illegal arrests and interrogation) because of their most deeply held thoughts and ideals.

I dream that all people in China will have freedom of religion and that they won't be persecuted because of what they believe; and that they won't be sentenced to illegal prison terms or subjected to extra judicial killing.

I dream that Falun Gong practitioners in China can one day, walk to the public park and start to do the morning exercise without being beaten by the police.

I have a dream that my daughter can return to China and will not be judged by her belief in Falun Gong, but by her character. And, as Martin Luther King Jr. said:

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Friday, January 18, 2008

Beijing is listening to our silence

Sarah Cook, National Post Published: Friday, January 18, 2008

The fact that Time magazine named Zeng Jinyan, right, one of the world's 100 most influential people did not help her much on Dec. 27, when 30 Chinese agents arrested her husband, prominent rights activist Hu Jia.

Security agents showed up at the couple's Beijing apartment with a warrant for "subversion against the state," a catch-all phrase used to lock up pretty much anyone who says something the Communist Party does not like. Despite liver problems and a two-month-old daughter, Hu now potentially faces years in prison.

He is not alone. Three months ago, one of his best friends -- leading rights attorney Gao Zhisheng -- met a similar fate. On Sept. 22, Gao, who like Hu had recently questioned the legitimacy of Beijing hosting the Olympic Games, was apparently taken by plainclothes police from the home he shares with his wife and two children. He has not been seen since.

To those who follow human rights in China, these may seem like common scenarios. But these two men are anything but common -- they are key leaders of what is often termed China's Rights Defence Movement, a diverse collection of lawyers, intellectuals and activists. Reaching beyond a narrow elite of dissidents, they have drawn support from large numbers of farmers and workers as they use nonviolent means to demand basic rights and challenge the Communist Party's decades of repression.

Hu and Gao's work has focused on different issues. Hu is an environmental and AIDS activist, while Gao has represented the gamut of China's "have-nots," from disabled children to coal miners to evicted tenants. As a Christian, he is particularly passionate about defending victims of religious persecution, especially house-church members and people who practise Falun Gong.

The duo's approach for bringing change has been surprisingly bold. Besides publicly quitting the Communist Party, in February, 2006, they launched a relay hunger strike for human rights which quickly became one of the largest and most unified mobilizations in years.

Activists, farmers and workers from 29 provinces joined, as well as overseas democracy activists. Gao has received phone calls of support from sympathetic government officials. In

regular touch with activists and petitioners across the country, Hu Jia has acted as a funnel, channelling to the rest of the world how people on the ground in China actually feel.

No wonder the Communist Party fears them.

As the Olympics approach, there is a prevalent sense that the world is in for a spectacular display of anti-Communist Party demonstrations, potentially met by violent repression. Here in the West, this is often accompanied by an implied attitude of "let's watch and see what happens," as if we were not a party to this battle.

But we already are, certainly when these rights defenders are getting in trouble precisely for asking our help. Gao was detained in September within days of sending a letter to U.S. Congress stating the Olympics are hurting the Chinese people and should be boycotted. Hu Jia expressed similar sentiments last month when he testified via webcam at a European Parliament briefing on China.

Despite what our leaders may say, public international pressure makes a difference. It is what kept Hu and Gao out of jail for as long as they were. It is also what turned Gao's three-year prison term in 2006 into a "suspended sentence," which at least protected him from torture.

But the dynamic works both ways. With every arrest, Party leaders watch to see how the world will react. When there's silence, when Western states continue to dutifully roll out the red carpet for every Chinese delegation, when abuses barely get mentioned at press conferences, then Chinese security agencies step up arrests. That is exactly what we have seen happen for the past year and a half.

And it is already playing out in Hu's case. With no outcry from the International Olympic Committee or Western governments since his detention, his lawyers are now blocked from visiting him, placing him at greater risk of torture.

That is why the international community cannot stand on the sidelines. Silence is a stance in itself--a stance on the side of the authoritarian Communist

Party's regime. And if Hu and Gao's work shows anything, it is that this is not the side that tens of millions of Chinese people really want us on. - Sarah Cook is a research assistant at Freedom House and co-editor of the English translation of Gao Zhisheng's memoir, A China More Just.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Spectacular Aids 'Important Cultural Development,': Matas

In contrast, communism is 'antithetical to culture'

By Cindy Chan
Jan 15, 2008

Prominent human rights lawyer David Matas (The Epoch Times)
Prominent human rights lawyer David Matas (The Epoch Times)

After seeing the Divine Performing Arts Chinese New Year Spectacular in Ottawa this year, human rights lawyer David Matas had high praise for the show's professionalism as well as its important contribution to cultural development.

"It's a very high-quality show, the costumes were wonderful, the music was terrific, the choreography was imaginative and very pretty to look at. It was a very professional show," said Matas.

Matas noted "the lessons of faith" portrayed in the Spectacular and "the continuity between the show and ancient Chinese cultural traditions.

It is "a continuation of Chinese culture as a living entity rather than just a museum artefact," he said. Ethnic Chinese will benefit from the show because it helps them connect with their identity, while non-ethnic Chinese will benefit from the presentation of cultural diversity and the richness of the Chinese civilization.

Matas commended Divine Performing Arts, the company that presents the Spectacular , "for their commitment to continue, preserve, and develop [Chinese] culture."

"It isn't just the preservation," he said, because the show contains elements "that would normally help cultural development and don't just replicate the past, but bring the past up to the present."

Matas pointed to the combination of modern instruments and ancient Chinese instruments as an example. "That in itself is an important cultural development—important for the Chinese culture, important for global culture."

"Culture that is meaningful is going to be insurrectionary, not in a violent sense, but rejecting established cultural norms. Otherwise you just get a regurgitation of the old stuff."

Keeping Chinese Culture Alive Despite Obstacles

The Divine Performing Arts promotes the Spectacular as a show that revives the authentic traditional culture of China, with its emphasis on moral values and spiritual quest, without any elements of communist party culture.

"That comes across pretty clear," said Matas, adding that communism is a "controlled system" that thwarts culture.

Communism is "antithetical to culture and spirituality," he remarked. "The way it relates to Chinese culture is simply by trying to destroy, obliterate, and suppress it, so any continuity of Chinese culture like what we see through the show is something that has no connection to communism whatsoever."

Each year the Chinese embassies and consulates contact government officials and attempt to discourage attendance at the shows and/or prevent them from taking place. Matas called these attempts "a form of cultural destruction of one of the richest cultural heritages in human history and human civilization."

He further explained that culture cannot come from a government or political system; it must come from the people. By its very nature, culture is a grassroots phenomenon, he said, whereas a communist society is a "controlled system," and "any controlled system thwarts culture.

"The whole notion of central control, which is essential to the notion of communism, is antithetical to cultural development from the people."

It follows that "you can't have a meaningful Chinese culture while the CCP remains in power in China," said Matas.

"The community putting on this show is not just providing a lot of entertainment but adding to contemporary cultural diversity and keeping alive this rich and diverse Chinese culture in the face of huge obstacles."

The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of the Divine Performing Arts shows that will perform in over 60 cities worldwide in 2008. To find a show near you, please visit

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vancouver Divine P/A Chinese Spectacular at the BELL

Vancouver, Canada

April 27 and 28, 2008 - Bell Performing Arts Centre

6250 144th Street, Surrey B.C. V3X 1A1 ~ Buy Tickets here

Divine Performing Arts is becoming recognized as the leading proponent of traditional Chinese dance and music. This year, with appearances on four continents to an estimated audience of over 650,000, the performers have set the highest standard of classical Chinese performing arts and present the most breathtaking celebration of Chinese New Year in the world. Inspired by over 5,000 years of history and tradition, the Spectacular has awed audiences across the globe since 2004. Creating one of the most visually stunning experiences on stage, the Spectacular features brilliant traditional dances, stellar singing and a live orchestra.

The Performing Arts Spectacular will travel to Vancouver on April 27 and 28, and onward to Edmonton and Calgary.


Trip the light dynastic

Montreal Mirror: Five millennia come alive at the Chinese New Year Spectacular

TANG SHEBANG: A Divine Performing Arts dancer


“The Year of the Rat symbolizes new beginnings and change,” says Francis Madore, spokesperson for, no, not Barack Obama, but for “not-for-profit, independent, Chinese-language television” company New Tang Dynasty TV, which is presenting the Chinese New Year Spectacular at Place des Arts this week (though the actual Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 7 this year).

“The legend says that at the time of the new year, the Buddha called upon all the animals to meet him, so he could assign them roles. Only 12 showed up, and each was given a year, so people born in that year would get the characteristics of that animal. People born under the year of the rat tend to be leaders, pioneers, conquerors. They’re usually charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and of course hardworking, like you know the rat is.”

The charm quotient of rats could be debated, but the dedication of the Divine Performing Arts Troupe, composed largely of Chinese émigrés and ex-pats, is unquestionable. Among the most successful touring shows in the world, the Spectacular strives to revive five millennia of Chinese art and history without fudging the specifics.

“The movements of the dancers, the costumes they wear, the backdrops—every detail is weighed and studied so that they’re as authentic as possible,” says Madore.

“The Chinese people themselves have been disconnected from this ancient culture, which was governed by dynasties. Each dynasty had a specific culture, depending on the emperor. These are people who had high beliefs in gods and adhered to high standards of morality, and they believe that’s what enabled them to develop these rich, glorious civilizations of ancient China. Now, with the Cultural Revolution and even in historical textbooks, all this information has been altered or removed. So it’s really interesting for both Chinese and Western audiences.”

The show touches on the Tang, Qing and Song dynasties, says Madore, “and on top of that, it goes into depicting some ethnic groups that prevailed in China. For example, there’s the traditional Mongolian cup dance, where the ladies carry cups with actual milk in them on their heads. The Manchurian ethnicity is also depicted, and the Tibetans.”

Madore adds a final but not inconsequential note, an unsurprising one given the Falun Dafa Association’s collaboration on the show. “The 5,000 years of Chinese history that are covered are from the ancient times, but also modern times. Some scenes depict the human-rights issues in China in the last 50 years, so there’s something to learn there too.”

At Place des Arts Tuesday to Thursday, Jan. 15–17,
7:30 p.m. (also 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 16), $38–$158, all ages