Over the past four years, under the auspices of New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV), a group of artists and scholars have breathed new life into Chinese culture. Together they have produced a world class annual cultural show that is bringing about a renaissance of ancient Chinese culture and traditons. Their annual global Chinese New Year Spectacular is touring the world’s top theaters around the globe. In just a few short years the production has grown from seven performances in five cities in 2004, to 76 performances in 30 cities in 2007. Audiences have swelled, in turn, with last year’s shows landing on Billboard Magazine’s number seven slot for most successful productions. But the real story lies not in the figures, however striking they may be, but in the meaning of it all. Behind the numbers is a tale of tragedy, perseverance, hope, and renewal.
After the takeover in China by the communists in 1949, traditional Chinese culture and spiritual traditions were destroyed and outlawed. Almost all the temples and many invaluable art treasures were smashed and burned. They, the communists, then went ahead to change history books and brainwashing generations of Chinese with party culture, class struggle and Marxist ideology.
Many of the show’s artists and creators have firsthand experience of the oppression of traditional culture and human rights. One of them is artistic director Rutang Chen who went through the pain and humiliation of the Cultural Revolution. He and his wife were separated and sent to the countryside to be “reformed” through hard labor—all for the crime of being artists who played the cello and flute. Years later, when they were allowed to play their instruments again in China’s leading Central Symphony Orchestra, all classical and traditional music had to be scrapped in favor of patriotic songs. Many orchestras were disbanded altogether.
With NTDTV’s shows, gone are the red flags of Chinese communism. Gone are the pirouetting People’s Liberation Army soldiers. Gone are all those lyrics crafted to stir patriotism. In their absence is a cultural space that has been missing for years.
Instead, NTDTV’s Spectacular serves up China’s best traditional arts in all their glory, vigor, and spiritual robustness. Many traditional Chinese instruments are used, and costumes are faithfully recreated from old manuscripts, paintings and pottery. Everything, including the magnificent backdrops, evoke the grandeur of China’s great dynasties and legends of remote history.
You can see it in each carefully placed step of the Lotus Arts Troupe dancers. You can hear it in the deep, heartfelt playing of the Erhu, an ancient Chinese two-stringed violin. And you can feel it in each act—that intangible ingredient that makes the difference between ordinary and magical.
This is Chinese culture brought to life by people who live it. But it’s also culture meant to inspire, ennoble, and nurture its audience. Unlike shows produced in China, where under communist rule today much of the arts is like a plastic veneer, playing to the fancy of the passing tourist, the NTDTV show runs deep—true to the profound, 5,000 year-old culture of China.
Between January and March the 2007 NTDTV Chinese New Year Spectacular tours Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and major cities in Canada, Europe and Asia.
John Augustyn writes about traditional Chinese culture and art. For more info about the NTDTV Chinese New Year Spectacular in your city/area, please visit: http://shows.ntdtv.com http://www.ntdtv.com