Splitting mountains with Shen Yun

Shen Yun

Okay, so you’re trapped under a mountain. All odds are against you—what do you do? Be

thankful that you let your son play with axes when he was a kid. This ancient Chinese legend is a

Romeo and Juliet-meets-Achilles story.

This tale, which has been brought to life by Shen Yun Performing Arts, begins with a bright

young scholar wondering through the woods. He stops to rest at a secluded temple deep in the

mountains. There, he notices a statue of the most magnificent goddess he has ever seen, and

composes a poem praising her ethereal beauty. The goddess is so moved by the litterateur’s verse

that she defies heavenly decrees and descends to the mortal world to meet this young man. The

two fall hopelessly in love, marry, and give birth to a son—the demigod Chen Xiang.

But defying the laws of heaven forbidding deities from marrying humans comes at a price.

When the goddess’s brother, a powerful three-eyed god, discovers what his little sister has done,

he is outraged. Taking heaven’s law into his own hands, he comes down to earth, snatches his

goddess-sister, and hurls her under one of China’s most sacred mountains, Mount Hua. This is

the very mountain where the young lover wrote his poem.

As the dust settles, father is nowhere to be found, mother is trapped under a ginormous

mountain, and Chen Xiang, still only a child, is left all alone. The boy starts roaming the land

in search for a way to rescue his mother. Hungry and tired he finally stumbles upon an old

Taoist master. The sage sees that Chen is not an ordinary child and takes him under his wing. He

teaches him the sacred Taoist ways and martial arts, training the boy day and night for sixteen

years. Finally Chen’s training is complete and the old Taoist bestows upon him a magic axe.

With his trusty axe and years of martial arts training under his belt, Chen returns to Mount Hua

to rescue his mother—only to find his three-eyed uncle peering down at him from atop the


This story, from Shen Yun’s 2010 production, comes alive on stage. The protagonists don

elaborate and colorful ancient costumes. They glide across the stage and leap through the air

with dramatic flipping techniques. They go from being animated figures on the digital backdrop

to instantly appearing as real, live people on stage in a way that defies reason. The battle that

ensues between the demigod Chen and his menacing uncle is accompanied by memorable music

performed by a live orchestra. And when the boy wins the battle and sets his axe against the

mountain with a loud gong, what was formerly a huge mountain on the projection splits open and

his mother emerges, alive and well.

Bringing back these lost legends is Shen Yun’s forte. The New York-based company excels at

taking these ancient stories and making them accessible to audiences in the West. Its artistic team

does this through the language of music and dance, primarily classical Chinese dance—one of

the richest and most expressive art forms in the world.

Narrators briefly introduce each piece, giving just enough of an introduction to help the

uninitiated understand the story, but not too much as to slow the pace or give away the plot. As

soon as the curtain rises, it is hard not to be swept away to the enchanting world of ancient China

and its legends.

And with 5,000 years of history, traditional Chinese culture provides an abundant treasure trove

of stories and heroes—each typically accompanied by a moral. Shen Yun thus need not worry

about running out of raw material, and the company produces an all-new performance each year.

What will be performed in this year’s show is still a secret. What is known is that, starting in

December, Shen Yun will tour over 100 cities around the world, and will return to Capitol

Theatre Sydney on February 6 -15, 2015. Children must be at least five years old.

This could be made into a textbox:

“It was an extraordinary experience for us and the children… The level of skill, but also the

power of the archetypes and the narratives were startling.” – Cate Blanchett, Academy Award-
winning actress

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About Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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