Where are the Ancient Arts of China?

23 December, 2011 at 07:08 | Posted in Chinese culture, Shen Yun | Leave a comment
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Unfound in the East, a glimmer of hope arises in the West

By Ryan Moffatt
Epoch Times Staff

As Shen Yun Performing Arts continues its world tour showcasing the lost traditions of ancient China, in a four-part series The Epoch Times takes a close look at these arts, their current state in China today, their undeniable influence in our world, and the significance of their miraculous revival.

As world economies rise and crumble, and the balance of power seems uncertain, China has emerged as a prominent figure on the world stage. Once closed off to the curious eyes of the outside world, the most populous nation on earth has opened its doors a crack, enabling the world at large to see the state of a nation still pained by the policies of communism—policies that all but destroyed China’s ancient culture and traditions.

To understand where a nation is going it is important to understand where it has been. People are becoming more aware that the China of today is neither the China of the past nor the one of the future. It is evident that the ancient traditions of this land are vast and rich, and their influence on our world is far-reaching.

To understand a nation’s artistic heritage is to understand the deepest values of its people. The thoughts and feelings conveyed in a brushstroke, musical note, or dance represent the ideals and attitudes interwoven into the fabric of a culture, something elusive to the written word.

China’s recorded history began more than 5,000 years ago, making it the oldest on earth. From the time of the first emperor, the arts have steadily evolved with each succeeding dynasty bringing new ideas, ideals, and forms of expression.

Throughout history each of the many ethnic groups in China were constantly refining their own unique contribution to the cultural heritage of the country.

The esoteric and deeply religious region of Tibet created a culture that has captured the world’s imagination for decades now, while the unforgiving natural environment of the Mongolian plains created a stoic people who developed a character and art reflective of the land that shaped them. Somehow the contrast and variety in culture is still unified and distinctly Chinese in character.

The pinnacle of China’s artistic and social development took place during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), regarded as China’s golden age. The arts flourished with a spirit of inclusion that strengthened the collective characteristic of China’s arts. The Silk Road reached its peak, and trade between the East and West infused different musical and artistic ideas into Chinese culture. Confucian thought existed alongside Buddhist and Taoist philosophy, making for a period of great moral and philosophical development.

Perfection of skill and moral cultivation went hand in hand, and in order to be proficient in any artistic endeavor great emphasis was placed on the cultivation of character. Whether it was dance, music, or calligraphy, a person’s nature was an essential part of the work. Nowhere has this been more emphasized than in the traditional arts of China.

The martial arts have perhaps been the most recognized export to the rest of the world, with Hollywood making good use of the visual spectacle of this art to capture the imagination of the West. Tracing its roots through history, the martial arts actually owe their formation and technique to Classical Chinese dance, the most profound art form that has emerged from China.

The gracefulness and technical brilliance of Classical Chinese dance surpasses the rigors of ballet and the martial arts. Classical Chinese dance goes beyond the mere technique and into the inner psyche of the performer. One could say it carries the essence of Chinese cultural expression in its movements, postures, and aesthetics.

The recent revival of China’s “lost culture” by New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has brought these ancient arts into light for the first time in our modern history.

The essential characteristic of Chinese traditional arts is the intention of connecting to the higher universe. The arts were not a means unto themselves, but a way of expressing and connecting to the divine, a concept deeply rooted in Chinese traditions. A vehicle of self-cultivation and liberation is not easily found in today’s world; however, these arts are nonetheless gaining a foothold once again thanks to Shen Yun.

via Where are the Ancient Arts of China? Part 1 | Arts & Entertainment | Arts & Entertainment | Epoch Times

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