Dear Brother Zhongming,
How are you? Today is December 24th of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Have you done your pre-New-Year cleaning?
Last time you asked how much Western society understands our Chinese traditional culture. Actually, overseas Chinese, generally speaking, all treasure their own cultural traditions. Of course they hope that Western mainstream society can understand and recognise our Chinese culture. However, the original Chinese culture has been covered by a mysterious veil in Western society for many years. The mainstream society has a very limited understanding of Chinese culture except for Chinese cuisine. Their understanding is as shallow as the dragonfly touching the water or what they believe to be Chinese culture is simply wrong. For example, the popular Disney movie Mulan is based on the legendary young woman that dressed like a man to join the military and fight in the war for her father. But the cartoon depicts her as an independent modern girl who goes against tradition. She "found herself" in the war and also found a husband. In this retelling, the loyalty and filial piety, something so central to the story and something which has been passed on for thousands of years was not conveyed to Western society.
Another example is seen with a certain famous director. In his several reputedly "great" films and operas that were shown in Western society, although they were about historical subjects, the history was distorted to serve political purposes. As a result, what Western people see are big scenes created with the use of modern technology to enhance the light, sound and colour; fields littered with corpses; political backstabbing in the royal court; and scenes of sexuality and incest. Because it was a distorted view of history, the knights had no regard for loyalty--they forgot the painful experiences of subjugation and life-time friendship. They colluded with tyrants for beautiful girls, for high official positions, and for some illusory ambition of "unifying the world." What Westerners see is nothing but political plots, infighting and the law of the jungle. So to many of them, Chinese culture remains a mystery.
To put it briefly, due to the language barrier and different ways of thinking, people in Western media and the arts are not able to grasp the deep meaning of Chinese culture. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party, which has all the national resources of literature, art and education, is not able to present true, original Chinese culture to the world because of political reasons and self interest.
After several decades of distorted education purposefully arranged by the Chinese Communist Party, even people in Mainland China don't understand the inner meaning of the true, original Chinese culture. The ancient tradition of cherishing heaven, earth, Gods, and Buddha with awe has become superstition to many people. Indeed, quite a few people believe that the history of China is a history full of struggles and fighting between royalty and emperors in the royal court through cunningness and hypocrisy.
But as a matter of fact, it is only because the ancient people believed in and worshipped heaven, earth, Gods, and Daos that they could pass down such touching myths and legends as Pangu Creating Heaven and Earth, Nuwa Creating Human Beings, Shengnong Tasting All the Herbal Medicines, ChangEr Going to the Moon, Changjie Creating Chinese Characters, Yaoshun Passing the Chieftan's Position (not to his family member but to the most capable person), and Dayu Stopping the Flood of the Yellow River. There are also stories about miracles that occurred with cultivators, such as the Yellow Emperor Flying Away, Guanyin Saving the Worldly People, Damo Crossing a River on a Straw, Eight Immortals Crossing the Ocean, the Great Emperor Zhengwu, Zhang Sanfeng, Monk Jigong, Qiu Chuji, etc. The ancient Chinese people's belief in the eternal heaven's principles and laws is what forms the social moral standards of Chinese society, based on the core principles of "benevolence, justice, courtesy, wisdom, and honesty." This is the basis of the personal goals for rectifying the mind, cultivating the body, harmonizing the family, ruling the country, and bringing peace to the world, which produced the Unyielding Su Wu, the devoted Zhu Geliang, the Loyal Guan Gong, the Patriotic Yue Fei and the Dedicated Wen Tianxiang. This is why it was possible to have prosperity during Wenjing's Rule in the Han Dynasty and Zhengguan's Rule in the Tang Dynasty, and under Emperors Kang and Qian's rule in the Qing Dynasty. This is how we have The Red Chamber with the theme of retribution and reincarnation, Journey to the West with the theme of cultivation and obtaining the Dao, and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms concluding that heaven's will cannot be denied. If Chinese history is just the dregs of thousands of years of intrigue and base power struggles or political backstabbing, then how could the glorious civilisation of five thousand years have been created?
The Greeks spread their myths to the world. The Americans print "In God We Trust" on their dollar bill. The Apollo Temple in Egypt is world famous, and with the spread of Yoga, the Indian Myth of Shiva has widely spread around the world. Since the Renaissance, European literature and artists have as their mission sung the praises of God. But how many Westerners know about the Chinese gods Pangu, Nuwa, Shengnong and the Eight Immortals?
The ancient Silk Road brought oriental civilisation to the Western world. Today a modern "Silk Road" is spreading Chinese divine beauty. This is the Chinese New Year Spectacular hosted by the overseas New Tang Dynasty TV. With the theme of Myths and Legends, the Spectacular introduces the essence of the original Chinese culture to Western mainstream society. The Chinese New Year Gala of 2006 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City was rated one of the top 10 shows in America by Billboard Magazine in February 2006. At the end of 2006, nine shows performed to a full house at the Beacon Theatre on Broadway. The 2007 Chinese New Year Spectacular has been performed in San Fransisco, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angles, Washington DC, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. The performances attracted large crowds of both Chinese and Westerners. Almost every show was fully seated, a rare occurrence in North American artistic circles.
The show included such myths and legends as Fei Tian and Dunhuang and stories depicting the traditional values of loyalty and filial piety such as Mulan and the Loyalty of Yue Fei. The dance-drama "Reaping What Is Sown" depicted returning to one's original self within the context of a contemporary subject. And there were also selections showing the graceful bearing of Chinese minorities such as "Herding on the Plains of Mongolia" and the "Dai Ethnic Dance." Many Western and Chinese audience members were so touched that they could not hold back their tears. The artists demonstrated the inner meaning of the greatness and depth of the original traditional Chinese culture with their pure and righteous hearts. Th e programs displayed Chinese people's exploration of the origin of life and the purpose of life, their understanding of God's and Buddha's Mercy and Compassion, and their belief in the heavenly laws and principles.
Somebody reportedly criticised the show because some of the selections had Falun Gong content. As a matter of fact, traditional values shouldn't be limited to being expressed through historical subjects. If a contemporary subject can be used properly, it is easier for the audience to understand. The crucial point here is that the performers must have a deep understanding of the connotation of the culture to enable their artistic performances to touch people's hearts and purify their minds.
The audience's reactions showed that the performances met the highest standards and allowed Westerners to see the real divine beauty of the oriental culture. Vice Consul-General Kai-Uwe Spicher of the German Consulate in Houston said after the show: "When I was watching the show, I felt very serene and relax[ed]. I treasure this experience. So this show is not only a performing art but also it serves as guide to how people should live, that is, in harmony, peacefully, and content and with a gracious way of life and way of thinking." Cyril Dabydeen, Canadian professor, poet, writer, and Committee member of Canada's Governor's General Award for Literature, said "The show is a total splendour. The beautiful and intricate stage performances, the wonderful soprano--I appreciate this show very much......Though I have studied Chinese history for many years, I have a further and better understanding of Chinese culture after the show. Chinese culture is so extraordinary."
Every Chinese person, whether overseas or in China, should be very proud that mainstream Western society praises our Chinese culture to such an extent. I hope everyone comes to support this contemporary "Silk Road" and helps the world understand the breadth and depth of the original traditional Chinese culture.
With best wishes,
Your cousin, Zhengyan
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