Just so you know…

In case you’re interested in attending a performance by the dance and music troupe Shen Yun, you might want to know one little tidbit: they’re a collection of Chinese Falun Gong expatriates, and the music, while in Chinese, is a little bit religious.

OK, a lot religious. And not the fuzzy well-meaning kind of religious, but the dogmatic anti-science kind.

A reader sent along the lyrics for one of their songs.


So Atheism is a pack of lies, huh, and The heresy of evolution now eclipses Divine word…I guess I don’t have any problem with them singing such stupidity, but it’s also nice to know that I can skip any of their concerts if they come to my area.

Also, I don’t have a soul, so it sure isn’t wishing to return to heaven.


  1. doublereed says

    Errr… is that a translation?

    So I don’t know any of the context here. It’s a song with lyrics. This could be from the point of view of a God or character or something. I mean it seems like the group does East/West Fusion stuff trying to do cool things with ancient traditions. I think you’re being too quick on the draw here.

  2. M'thew says

    They’re scheduled for a few performances around where I live, and the posters advertising “5000 years of history” and similar crap have been all over the place for weeks now. I am sick of them.

  3. M'thew says


    Read this review in the British Telegraph.

    Persecution by the Chinese government should give some bonus points, but on the whole the sect Falun Gong and their propagande troupe aren’t that much different from, say, Scientology and the like.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    In the case of China, it would be more like “3500 years of history” if you count organised literate kingdoms.

  5. doublereed says

    @3 M’thew

    Thank you for some context. That review is far more damning than just the sheet of lyrics.

  6. M'thew says

    There’s also the Rationalwiki entry on Falun Gong/Falun Dafa, in which the connection with Shen Yun is mentioned, albeit briefly. A Guardian review, linked to in a footnote in the Rationalwiki entry, mentions the following scene:

    The majority of the cast (members of the Divine Arts organisation) turn out to be practitioners of the oppressed spiritual movement Falun Gong. As the comperes make clear, not only are most of the numbers slanted to embody the movement’s creed (truthfulness, compassion, tolerance), but some of them explicitly dramatise scenes from its struggles within mainland China, with background images magically depicting the swelling multitudes of Falun Gong followers and choreographed conflicts showing heroic battles with brutal party goons.
    Another – The Risen Lotus Flower – shows Falun Gong prisoners being tortured but who are illuminated by a spiritual light that pirouettes around them like a digital Tinkerbell.

    I’ve been in China and know that the Chinese love them some true kitsch, but even without the propaganda I couldn’t take Shen Yun seriously as a way to partake in Chinese culture. The kitsch in itself is a crime against my senses.

  7. says

    Where I live, there were posters advertising the troupe which performed in another city in Michigan last month hanging around in a few places such as on the window of that one Chinese restaurant on main street. I didn’t care about going there. I wasn’t interested in them. After what I’ve read, I’m sure glad I never went there.

  8. jeffreynordstrom says

    At home I have some scanned Shen Yun lyrics from a performance I misguidedly attended in Vancouver back in 2011 or so. I was on the tail end of my religious fith t the point and we floored by the campy Western evangelistic techniques they used. The “concert” started innocently enough, with plenty of banal platitudes and the occasional red flag; by the end of the show, the words “FALUN GONG IS GOOD!” were projected on the screen. I couldn’t help but laugh. I wish I knew what I was getting into when I bought the tickets, but my wife and I have talked about it many times since.

  9. PaulBC says

    It always looked like kitsch to me (and I was also aware of the Falun Gong connection, but not those lyrics in particular).

    The TV commercials they would run in the SF Bay Area a few years back always included a series of audience members, nearly all of European descent, gushing about the wonderful cultural experience they just witnessed. A uniform sample of Bay Area residents would be a lot more diverse and would include some Chinese people.

  10. zaledalen says

    The Falun Gong has a permanent protest set up in front of the Chinese embassy in Vancouver. Many Canadians have heard their tale of woe – being arrested and their organs stolen for transplants, being committed to insane assylums because of their religious belief. Many Canadians, including political leaders looking for press coverage, bought this and are sympathetic. One day I picked up their literature. Holy shit. You would think it was written by the most rabid John Bircher. Foaming at the mouth anti-communist and anti-government.

    Then, in China, I asked my Chinese friends about them. The Chinese have no use for them at all. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but the Chinese believe they have done stuff like convincing teenagers to light themselves on fire to protest the government. In all, seen as a bunch of fuckheads, and the fanatic creationism is just the icing on the cake.

  11. says

    The Chinese government’s suppression of Falun Gong is a good example of the poorly thought out nature of such policies. If they’d left them alone Falun Gong would probably have discredited themselves with most people who’d heard of them, and lots of people would never have heard of them that now have because of the oppression.

  12. says

    to return to heaven is your destiny

    next time you’re pestered by a believer, ask ’em: if heaven’s so awesome, why are you still here?

  13. unclefrogy says

    they were advertizing around here a while back and I was kind of amazed thinking the such a Chinese production was getting the kind of splash they were getting. Now I see that it is something other than an official government touring company makes more sense. I am not very fond of the acrobatic style performances that come from China so I missed it. I find I prefer my religious music in a language I do not speak much easier to listen to then.
    uncle frogy

  14. Numenaster says

    I saw Shen Yun in Portland some 2 years ago. It was one of the few times I’ve contemplated walking out of a dance performance. I lived in mainland China for most of a year and in Taiwan for most of a year after that, so I have a pretty high tolerance for Chinese political propaganda. But this was just too over the top even for me. I can handle dozens of flying Bodhisattvas bolstering the brave Falun Gong protesters, but when they opened the 2nd act with a scene of prison guards abusing prisoners, I couldn’t even be sympathetic.

  15. PatrickG says

    I saw Shen Yun a couple of months ago in Sacramento, CA. I can attest it’s ridiculously over the top religion-wise, with lots of direct exhortations for the audience to see the light and all that jazz.

    One thing that pissed us off was that they kept asserting that the reason they couldn’t perform their ballet in China because of their religion. But to confirm Numenaster’s experience, most of it is direct political criticism of the current Chinese government, using over-the-top propaganda. People in black shirts with red hammer/sickle symbols committing atrocities against hordes of schoolchildren just trying to read books (monk-approved and -distributed, of course!), play cat’s cradle, skip rope, and the like. Not subtle.

    Not that they should be barred from performing for that reason, either. But I found it disingenuous to say their performances were banned solely because of religion, which they repeated many times.

  16. dick says

    Jumpin’ Jeezus on a stick! I thought there was something kind of funny, (not quite creepy), about the very nice people handing out leaflets at the mall. I guess, now, that they were part of the organization, not just local members of the Chinese community brought in to drum up business.

  17. says

    I have been avoiding the performance because I thought it was Chinese propaganda, promoted and paid for by the Chinese government. I see that I was wrong about why it was bad, but right nonetheless for avoiding them.

  18. rrhain says

    I saw it here in San Diego a few years ago. The advertisements are very clear to avoid any mention of Falun Gong. It was only after I got there and started reading the program that I realized what was going on.

    For those who don’t know, the show is a mixture of dance and song. They do a series of disconnected vignettes. A couple comes out to introduce the next number, it gets performed, they move on to the next. Most of the items are dances but every now and again they’ll have someone come out to sing an operatic aria (the lyrics seen posted above).

    The dances are mostly abstract pieces and then they go into story-telling pieces that go back (supposedly) to Chinese folk tales. But as the night moves on, the references to Falun Gong become more and more direct until the final number which is a piece showing the Chinese government literally kidnapping and torturing the members of Falun Gong.

    So I was a bit put off given the religious propaganda. But what really irked me about the night was that the performance wasn’t any good! Oh, the dancers themselves were quite adequate, but the choreography was simplistic and uninspired. All the pieces started to look the same except with different costumes. They have a huge projection screen in the back of the stage that they use for the backdrop of the dances, but the projections looked like they were done on a Commodore Amiga by a junior high school student. Outrageously oversaturated colors sprayed all over.

    And they had one schtick they kept using throughout the night: On the projection screen, they would have whatever the Falun Gong-tinged Buddhism version of angels (I hesitate to call them devas) fly down from the top or from the vanishing point in the back and come to the place where the screen met the stage and then have a person jump up right at that point so that it kinda looked like the angel popped out of the screen.

    OK…first time, it was interesting. Second time, not so bad. Wait, they’re doing that again? And again? Don’t you people have any other tricks up your voluminous, silken sleeves?

    It was just so *boring.* I had to fight to stay awake. Even if there hadn’t been any propaganda in it of any kind, it was still a waste of time and money because it was so poor of a production.

  19. kurczaki3 says

    I agree with Patrick G and rrhain comments. My daughter who is in her early teens is a dancer and she loves to see different type of dances. After all we live in a medium size city and it seemed nice to have the group stop in our town. After all we are not exposed to much of diversity. The performance seemed quite professional (we are not picky at all) and the costumes with the way each had a flow with dance and music, seemed quite nice. Everything appeared to be a fairy tale until the lyrics of a song appeared on the screen. I felt tricked into paying for tickets of a group that is antagonistic to evolution and atheism. I checked after the performance, their website nowhere they have a stance on evolution or atheism though they appear quite spiritual.
    In our current climate of assaults on evolution that appears to be coming from every direction it is difficult to be oblivious to such lyrics that appear in family oriented shows. They have all the right to call their performance what they want but they have to be clear or clearer on their stance with evolution because I do not want to support them. I do not want to have a conversation with my daughter why I disagree about the lyrics instead of talking about the dance, the costumes or the choreography.

  20. Monsanto says

    Why did my soul ever leave heaven in the first place? There must have been a good reason.

  21. militantagnostic says


    Why did my soul ever leave heaven in the first place? There must have been a good reason.

    Because the guy in charge was such a narcissitic, misogynistic, homophobic, vindictive asshole?

  22. PatrickG says

    That is pretty messed up, if true.

    True. Also part of my reaction to their religious-persecution complex on display. If you’ve got legitimate grievances…

    On another note, my partner and I agreed how notable it was that the vast majority of women who appeared on stage performed the traditional, ceremonial group dances. The scripted/story-telling pieces were all-male, except for the token woman who was required to be there as a love interest or dragon-princess character. Very striking.

  23. anym says

    #14, aarrgghh:

    next time you’re pestered by a believer, ask ‘em: if heaven’s so awesome, why are you still here?

    #22, Monsanto

    Why did my soul ever leave heaven in the first place? There must have been a good reason.

    Probably a pyramid scheme. Indoctrinate new cultists, win fabulous prizes in the afterlife.

  24. shadow says

    @24: militantatheist:

    Because the guy in charge was such a narcissitic, misogynistic, homophobic, vindictive asshole?

    With extremely bad aim and no self control.

  25. gerryl says

    A couple of years ago I was puzzled when I started seeing huge ads for this program all over Portland. It was months in advance of the performances and I figured it might be some sort of China-sponsored cultural event. Then I saw full page ads in the Oregonian and constant tv commercials. And people — well-dressed young Chinese men — were hawking the event at street fairs. That’s when I concluded that it smacked of evangelism. Who else would spend that much money trying to get others to attend some vaguely described performance. Apparently they’re coming back this year.