The other day, when I was strolling through the local shops, I came across a big screen full of graceful Chinese dancers prancing about. Intrigued, I stopped to ask the smiling man about them.
‘Shen Yun,’ he said, ‘traditional Chinese dance’, he said. ‘We have two shows in Sydney coming soon’.
‘What a shame’, I said, ‘I’ll be in China then’.
The smile disappeared. ‘You can’t see this in China’, he said.
‘Why not?’ I said.
‘The Chinese government won’t allow it?’ he said. ‘They won’t allow any traditional culture or religion in China – Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, all forbidden’.
Puzzled, I said: ‘But I have been to Confucian congresses, Daoism research centres, and Buddhist temples – plenty of those all over China’.
‘They are all fake’ he said. ‘It’s a sham perpetrated by the Chinese communist party. Only Shen Yun, or Divine Performing Arts, presents the truth of 5,000 years of civilisation‘.
Genuinely surprised, I asked, ‘So where is Shen Yun based?’
‘New York’, he said.
Then it hit me: ‘Genuine Chinese culture is found only in New York?’ I asked. ‘What about Disneyland?’
‘Anywhere, except in China’, he said.
I pondered this dialectical possibility for a while, and then the light bulb slowly went on: ‘You wouldn’t be supported by Falun Gong by any chance?’
‘Yes!’ he said, and pointed to some tiny print on the back of a flyer. He seemed to feel the message was getting through.
‘That’s a very impressive con job‘, I said with genuine admiration.