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At Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel last weekend, New York art lovers had the chance to see Chinese oil paintings telling the story of a traditional Chinese spiritual practice.
The art of Zhen Shan Ren or Truth Compassion Tolerance exhibition tells the story of Falun Gong—an ancient spiritual discipline the Chinese regime has been persecuting since 1999.
[James Smith, ZSR Art Exhibition Coordinator]: “What we see is the depiction of the journey of the practice—and it gives you an insight into the spiritual world of people who practice. ..captures the tranquility, the inner beauty that comes from the practice.”
The exhibit is organized along seven key themes. These include the coming of the Lord Buddha, joy of cultivation, persecution in China, and the nonviolent resistance of Falun Gong practitioners.
The paintings explore the artists’ inner spiritual experiences—the sublime tranquility—contrasted against the harsh outer truth of the persecution in Mainland China.
Zhen Shan Ren Art Exhibition Coordinator James Smith talks about how the project first started.
[James Smith, ZSR Art Exhibition Coordinator]: “The main artist, the director of this project, Professor Zhang Kunlun, very much show the transformation of himself as he came to practice Falun Gong, and really shows the beauty particularly in the Buddha, which you’ll see at the end. ”He was then put in a labor camp and tortured. So the Canadian government rescued him from China. Now he’s brought this group of artists to tell their story in places like this.”
The artists have created the exhibit as a medium to portray the truth. Smith says the painting titled, “Determination Under Persecution” particularly moves him.
[James Smith, ZSR Art Exhibition Coordinator]: “It could be me…it could be anyone close to my age who’s caught in this predicament—that comes across this beautiful practice, have started to do it and learn so much. Yet she’s put into the labor camp and subject to this severe torture.”
In the “Manhattan Meditator,” artist Kathleen Gillis shows the everyday experience of a young New York practitioner.
[James Smith, ZSR Art Exhibition Coordinator]: “This is on the streets of Manhattan. We’ve a sidewalk of Manhattan, and for a long time, practitioners would go and meditate—a way of letting people know this is really a peaceful practice.”
Zhen Shan Ren Art International Exhibition Coordinator William Cheung explains the importance for people in the West to see the exhibition.
William Cheung, ZSR Art International Exhibition Coordinator]: “When we hear about China, we all know it’s a growing economic power. Many forget that it (China) is still ruled by the Communist regime… people (in China) don’t have the same basic human rights we enjoy in the West.”
The moral message transcends language, time, race, religion, and politics.
[William Cheung, ZSR Art International Exhibition Coordinator]: “One thing in common is humanity. This is the art that showcases the best of humanity and showcases the courage for people despite the atrocities, standing up for their faith and belief and their firm convictions, and always using peaceful means to appeal to the world.”
Artist Xiaoping Chen depicts the theme of nonviolent resistance in “The Call of Innocence.” The painting shows an innocent young girl standing—dwarfed by the towering Manhattan skyscrapers.
William Cheung, ZSR Art International Exhibition Coordinator]: “It’s a rainy day. It’s cloudy but in her eyes you can see her conviction is beyond her age. It’s penetrating…She’s holding a sign, ‘Killed for her belief.’…They try to raise awareness about the human rights violations in China. This was a year round campaign a couple of years ago in Manhattan. The goal is to try to raise awareness in this international city because many visitors, also including many Chinese also come to this US city.”
Cheung says the exhibition plays a valuable role. Since 2004, the Zhen Shan Ren Art Exhibition has been shown in over 140 cities and more than 40 countries.