Thu, March 12 2009
At the food court in Vancouver’s Sinclair Centre, a young well-dressed Asian woman was last week handing out glossy leaflets promoting something called the Divine Performing Arts, or DPA.
She spoke softly, explaining to those who took her yellow pamphlets that the show, which is slated to hit a Vancouver stage next month, is about China’s culture and heritage.
The literature promoting the show is full of superlatives like gloriously colorful, exhilarating, elite, masterful choreography, gorgeously costumed, stunning and breathtaking.
But is this really a show about China’s traditional arts?
Look beyond the pamphlets and the website of the Divine Performing Arts Company, and it is quite evident that this spectacle is nothing more than a vehicle to showcase the beliefs of the Falun Gong movement and denigrate the Beijing regime.
Truth be told, Divine Propaganda Arts would be a better moniker for the show that has been panned by some big name critics in New York and Toronto.
Toronto Star theatre critic Susan Walker described the show as “spectacularly tacky” and heavily laden with “Falun Gong messages as to negate any pleasure the dancing and singing might have afforded.”
A scathing New York Times review said dozens of people walked out of the show because of the heavy Falun Gong propaganda underscoring the performances by the lackluster dancers, singers, drummers and flying angels.
To be fair, the show has also received its share of positive reviews as well – most of them collected by volunteers from audience members to divinely end up in The Epoch Times – a Falun Gong-friendly newspaper chain.
So what and who is the Divine Performing Arts?
For those answers one has to look at the Falun Gong movement, which portrays itself as non-hierarchical parallel units when facing problems and solidifies into a considerable structure when propagating the bizarre belief system that is focused on a mystery man called Li Hongzhi.
This self-styled prophet and possessor of unique supernormal abilities has claimed his teachings are at ” . . . a higher level than those of Buddha and Christ . . . .”
Li claims to have been found at age 12 by a “Taoist immortal” who then led him up the mountains to train him in the art of telekinetically implanting the falun, or law wheel, into the abdomens of his followers, where it absorbs and releases power as it spins.
The man – who has been variously described as an anti-Chinese doomsday cult leader, head of a sinister organization and a spiritual master – apparently also can fly, believes that Africa has a two billion-year- old nuclear reactor, and that aliens who look human, but have “a nose made of bone,” invaded Earth to introduce modern technology.
Chinese media have a different version of Li, portraying him as an unexceptional student with a flair for the trumpet who held jobs as a guesthouse attendant and a grain store clerk, who founded the Falun Gong movement before taking off to the United States, where he is reportedly somewhere in New York.
Take what you want from this man’s teachings, which are enshrined in the Falun Gong bible called Zhuan Falun, but the international Falun Gong movement now claims 100 million followers worldwide after China outlawed the group and cracked down on its members.
Today, this army of adherents, which is mainly ethnically Chinese, is quick to criticize China for using “fronts” to discredit the Falun Gong movement, while the group itself uses the same two-faced technique.
In the Falun Gong diaspora, followers run printing presses, newspapers, websites, TV stations and stage productions to highlight communist China’s alleged repression of their movement.
While maintaining a public distance, these businesses all acknowledge by word and deed a special relationship with the Falun Gong movement.
Readers of the Asian Pacific Post newspaper in Vancouver know this all too well. The award-winning paper was held hostage by Epoch Press, which is operated by Falun Gong followers, because the followers did not like the “balanced approach” to a story about the Divine Performing Arts show. (See ‘Hypocrisy in slow motion’ on www.asianpacificpost.com)
Maria Chang of the University of Nevada, who wrote a book about the Falun Gong, said the Falun Gong movement treats organizations it has created as front components to influence public opinion through propaganda campaigns.
Describing such strategies as counterproductive in democratic societies, Chang in a published interview said: “Being secretive and deceptive will just play into the image they’re a kooky group with something to hide.”
The Falun Gong movement also claims to be apolitical, which is as believable as having a spinning wheel in your tummy.
Much of their actions, from morbid street skits to silent demonstrations to noisy parades, are aimed at drawing attention to their plight and creating agitation against Beijing.
Similarly, the Divine Performing Arts show is nothing more than another theatre of the absurd in Falun Gong’s on-going proxy war against China.
It’s just crouching dancer, hidden jargon.
Charles Liu says
Falun Gong propaganda outlets have consistently down played, even outright denied, their association with Falun Gong:
– Two years ago Falun Gong radio Sound of Hope Chicago manager, Yi Liu, denied SoH’s association with Falun Gong during an interview about the FLG agiprop theater they sponsored.
– In 2007 Epoch Times chairman Stephen Gregory had denied ET’s association with FLG.
My son had tickets to a New Year’s 2008 show at the Escondido Performing Arts Center so my wife and I went along with him. It was supposed to be a Chinese music and dance show and about 70% of the audience was of Chinese ancestry. It started off fine, but about the third number they did a Falun Gong dance/story. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a Falun Gong production but one number? Ok, I can live with that. Two dances later was another and by the end of the show, it was virtually all Falun Gong stuff. It wasn’t advertised as Falun Gong so I wasn’t too pleased and felt I had been manipulated. The performers were talented but the message was far too blatant to accomplish its objective.
So for me, if they had intended this type of performance to generate sympathy for their views, it had the opposite effect. Before I saw it, I didn’t have much of an opinion about them either way except that I had seen them doing standing qigong at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall in Taipei and they were breaking all sorts of postural rules, so I wasn’t impressed with the quality of instruction they had. I had also heard negative opinions of them from my friends in Shanghai, but that was it.
Putting together self promoting performances under the guise of “art” is just about the worst way to win people over to their cause.
@Steve: I saw this troupe mentioned a couple of weeks ago and there were some quite hilarious reports about it (like this one about the atheist turned believer), so I guessed it must be FLG.
@ WKL: Last year on Halloween, I headed over to Wal-Mart to buy some candy for the treat-or-treaters. As I was walking out, there was a very attractive young lady dressed in a Ming dynasty costume handing out flyers for last year’s show. I asked her if she was Falun Dafa and she said she was, so if you ask they will admit it.
@Steve: Sure. Back in 2003 I attended a party with the students from the Afro-Asian language institute at Uppsala University. People were supposed to dress in some South-East Asian garment, and I was a bit surprised to see a guy dressed in a yellow robe. Later in the evening, he went on stage and said he would show the audience some traditional qigong, introduced himself as practicing FLG and began making the movements to music.
Doing meditation myself (though not qigong or FLG), I remember feeling a bit uneasy about it; I can’t imagine myself going on a stage to meditate or sleep… 😉
RED WARRIOR says
Falun Goons is just the Chinese version of the U.S. People’s Temple. Li Hong-zhi is Jim Jones II.
Enjoy your Kool-aid.
Speaking of cults,
I was in a Walmart with my wife 1 night (around 9PM) in Sacramento, California.
1 Chinese girl (with bells on) came up to us and begged us for donation. She showed us some photos of her in a Church with a group of people, and told us that her “church” had sponsored her to come to US, but she needed money.
I gently tugged my wife’s shirt and signaled to not give any money.
The girl quickly disappeared from the store.
My wife is from China, and she had never seen this kind of solicitation, so she asked me what that was about.
I told her, “That was a Moonie!” (But that was the 1st time I have seen a Moonie in person.)
*Yes, a honest to God real life Moonie!
The Girl said her church was the “Unification Church”. I vaguely remember reading about the Unification Church, (Moonies), when I was reading law cases from the 1970’s about the Cult and the “brainwashing”.
*My wife in disbelief, said, she couldn’t be a cult member, she “sounded so nice and sincere”!
I replied, “What kind of Church would bring a Chinese girl to US, and then send her into a Walmart in the night to beg strangers for money??”
I’m an Atheist, but I have been to plenty of Churches with friends. I have seen some strong religious conversion speeches come my way, but decent churches don’t exploit people.
“I’m an Atheist, but I have been to plenty of Churches with friends. I have seen some strong religious conversion speeches come my way, but decent churches don’t exploit people.”
RV4K: LOL……I have been to church half of life….. I have witnessed a great deal of BS as a believer, seen exploitations and belligerent sermons during those blindsighted years. Thanks in parts to George Carlin (may he rest in peace) & other recovery Christians, I am now an agnostic.
Hm….that’s kinda true come to think of it.
@ Hongkonger: I slightly edited your last post. For anyone who cares, George Carlin is exceedingly funny (at least to me) but does use profanity so you’ve been warned.
“Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.”
BTW, ALL standup comedians these days are foul mouth prophets. George Carlin is IMHO one of the ALL TIME GREATS.
Change of subject: Rote learning.
I’ve heard enough BS by neo-edumacators criticising this time tested (Chinese, Jewish, Indians, Japanese, Middle Eastern ) system. Claiming that the Western style is this and that more conducive to cerebral creativity. Complete bovine excretmentus, I say. So, here’s my retort, particularly to those blind East & west followers who believe that anything from the modern permissive school of thoughts are good, humanitarian and therefore sound.
Although I myself am not disciplined in the rote learning system, I can nevertheless see the great advantage of having such well honed cerebral muscles at ones disposal. IOW, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
The rote learning system is widely practiced in schools across India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Malta and Greece.
Indeed, Rote learning is prevalent in many schools throughout the world. Most Dharmatic religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism initially transmitted their scriptural knowledge through oral transmission without resort to text. This was done by converting verse into chant and repeating it to commit to memory.
In Abrahamic religions, Jewish yeshivot or chederim use rote learning when teaching children Torah, Muslim madrasas utilize it in memorising Koran. A person who has memorised the entire Koran is known as Hafiz.
In pre enlightenment Europe, memorisation techniques were known as Method of loci, mainly practiced in monastery and university, where divinity were taught. These skills were highly praised and they were known to be extensive allay of memorisation technique such as memory palace.
To put it simply: It would be crazy to expect lazy and distracted folks in affluent society innundated with and addicted to quick fixes such as Pop-pyscho babbles, self help BS books, Emotion-ivational seminars etc., to ever dare, care or have the conditions to foster the desire to go off the precipices of prolong self denial, fasting, abstinence, meditations and whatever other spiritual exercises to be anywhere near the concept of profoundity.
Having said all that, I’d agree that the examination oriented system/culture majorly sucks though.
@ Hongkonger #12: I’m in awe of my wife’s memory. She can have a conversation with someone and ten years later, tell them details of that conversation. She never forgets a name. She speaks four languages fluently. I hate her. (well, not really, just jealous)
I guess there’s no other way to really learn a character based language than by memorization. When I was young, the school systems in the States used more rote learning than today. I think it’s good to have both rote and creativity methods taught rather than just one. I think teaching only one limits learning potential.
Thanks for the historical background. When you mentioned pre-enlightenment Europe, I remembered reading about the French troubadours in the Middle Ages who memorized incredibly long stories to sing to and entertain royal courts. Memorization techniques back then were amazing because there were no other ways to pass along learning. Soon after the Gutenberg Bible was printed in Europe, books of all types became available for low prices and Europe became literate in one generation. Memorization no longer had the same cachet or necessity that it had in the past.
These days, modern technology has changed the way we learn. Since the invention of calculators, it’s amazing how many people can’t do basic arithmetic in their heads anymore. Computers have taught everyone to type but not how to research. It’s just too easy to get online rather than head over to the library. I guess with all technology, there are benefits and disadvantages.
I’m sorry, but that’s all the time I can give you. Being a citizen of the modern world, I am no longer able to think about any subject for longer than three minutes. 😉
Excellent post Steve!
Here’s an email excerpt with good friends overseas:
American “A” wrote:
She obviously has never spent time in a Chinese classroom.
In China, the teacher BECOMES the parent. I’m quite serious.Chinese parents do not give a WHIT about what their kids are LEARNING…it’s ALL to pass the test, pass the test, pass the test and bring the family “face” by going to a good university.
Rote learning teaches blind obedience to a higher authority. Do not question. Ever.
On the other hand, here in USA:
After school clubs…US…check!
The importance and encouragement of feeding not only the mind but also the soul…US…check!
As you can tell, I’m a big supporter of the Socratic method.
I currently work with teenagers from Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China. Yes, rote memorization has its benefits, but these poor kids (no, not literally) know NOTHING about the world around them…nor do they care. (But to be fair the same could well be said for many students in the US as well…)”
Affluence play a big part in affording many of the extra cirriculums you listed. So does cultural and social relevancy. Makes ya wonder why then are most Americans still so ignorant of the world outside of their cultures, doesn’t it?
Another thing. Kids in Asian are generally treated as what they are: Children and students. There’s a time for everything. So, it depends on ones philosophy and culture. Westernized societies want to pretend their children are adults before their time for the most part, which I ain’t gonna judge as good or bad. Suffice to say, the traditional cultures produced very responsible children. Runaways, unwanted teenage pregnancy and blatant rebellions etc., were extremely rare before the trends of permissiveness permeated these cultures, including traditional Euro-American cultures.
Those new immigrant students of yours will most likely have their posterity totally Americanized, and be thrown into the den of vanity at schooling age, to suffer or enjoy the popularity contest and be labelled as geeks, jocks and whatever else, etc. Pathetic.
American “J” response:
As some of you know, “A” is now a California resident.
As most of you know, California is dead broke and cutting education like a Samurai drunk on sake.
Therefore, an update on “A’s” list:
Music classes.. California…canceled!
Vocational education…California…drastically reduced!
After school clubs…California…canceled!
Part-time jobs…California…ain’t none!
@Steve (#13): I think I have the same ability as your wife. I didn’t think much about it until people began asking me how I could remember conversations and details that happened decades ago. Unfortunately these memories are often blocked out when I’m in a heated argument, so unlike some lucky people, I can’t use it to win debates.
Rote memorization definitely has its place in language learning, and in some other areas as well. While the memorization itself might be mechanic, it’s amazing how the brain keeps the stuff and works on it. There’s something of a critical mass involved; after learning something intensively like this you tend to get a very special feel for it. My rule is: first learn to copy, then learn to create.
As for technology, these days I’m using a computer application to perform rote memorization… 🙂 It’s better than flash cards because you don’t need to make them yourself, and the computer is better at realizing what word you ought to see next, to get optimal memorization.
@ Hongkonger #14: I went to Catholic schools growing up so I guess the “blind obedience to a higher authority” was… GOD! 😛
I got a kick out of her glorification of the Socratic method. The Socratic method is great for debate but as a philosophical method it has holes. These are pointed out in a clear and easy to understand way in Bertrand Russell’s “The History of Western Philosophy”. It was great for its time and very convincing, but not always a good guide to the truth.
I think rote learning is best at the earliest grades when you’re looking at language, arithmetic, etc. But at the higher grades, rote learning stifles creativity. A physics professor at CSUF told me his graduate students from Qinghua University were knowledgeable but when he gave them the lab for their own experiments, they had no idea what to try while the American students had many ideas. That’s why I think a combination of the two methods, starting with rote and moving towards critical thinking over time is the best approach. For instance, history is dry with no real meaning if you’re just memorizing dates, names and places.
My wife has said that she gave the teacher the information back on the test, implying that once she passed the test the information was out of her brain. Obviously that’s not totally true, but if she had no interest in the subject it was pretty much true. That’s what I fear about rote learning, that it never instills the love of learning because it never really ratchets up our curiosity and interest.
@ Wukailong #15: I hate you too! 😉
I can remember trivia like nobody’s business. I like to say that if it can’t make me money, I can remember it. But what I can remember has nothing to do with language acquisition. For some reason, that’s my Achilles heel.
I was a very good drummer when I was young. The way to get good at any musical instrument is to plow your way through the rudiments, boring though they might be, until they are second nature. Then one day you hit a point where you no longer think about what you’re doing but just do it. What you can imagine just automatically shows up in your hands. Then you’re a true musician.
The same learning process helped me in martial arts. I started studying Xingyiquan (a Taoist or internal art) in my latter 30s so I was older than just about everyone there. But I showed up six days a week, knew how to practice from my drumming experience and just went at it with a high level of intensity. No one who started after me ever passed me in rank while I was there. They were younger, faster and stronger, but they weren’t as tenacious or made use of their practice time as wisely. Rote, then creativity.
Out of curiosity, what computer program are you using to perform rote memorization? Is it something like those Rosetta Stone language programs?
# 15 & #16,
Steve Says:July 27th, 2009 at 4:45 am . “The way to get good at any musical instrument is to plow your way through the rudiments,” and “The same learning process helped me in martial arts.”
This is an amazing coincidence, Steve. Here you are using very similar examples I did just a couple hours earlier in my email to friends, Wow.!!!.
Here’s what I wrote in my email dated Monday, July 27, 2009 2:36 AM
“Last week, a university student asked me the MOST asked question in China regarding ESL: “How can I improve my English quickly?” To which I asked in return, “What do you think the best Kung fu master in the entire universe would say to you if you’d asked him the same question about becoming a martial art expert?” Then I asked him again, ” Do you play music? Can you go anywhere without rote learning and repeatedly practice the scales and chords?” ”
Steve: ” I got a kick out of her glorification of the Socratic method.”
My Email to my American friend “A” :
“Socrates being a Greek would have had rote learning as a kid : “Socrates understood better than those with whom he spoke that it was NOT ENOUGH simply to “learn” facts, to memorize lessons, or to parrot lectures. ” Hell no, not for grown ups.”
Wukailong: “My rule is: first learn to copy, then learn to create.”
Steve: “Rote, then creativity. ”
Hongkonger to friends in email:
“Like I said, rote learning is crucial in elementary learning of any sort. There is a time for everything, and as all you world travelers know all too well that the “time” concept varies greatly among cultures.”
@ Hongkonger & Wukailong: You know what they say, “Insane minds think alike”…. err…. something like that. 😉