Home China Music Is Medicine in Shen Yun Performing Arts

Music Is Medicine in Shen Yun Performing Arts

Shen Yun is a show that brings beautiful ancient Chinese culture back to life.

It’s an explosion of color and traditional costumes, full of rich stories and legends with extraordinary talent and music to nourish your soul.

In ancient China, one of music’s earliest purposes was for healing.

The Chinese character for “music” derives from the character for “medicine.”

Maidens play the flute for minister Han Xizai in this 10th century painting Night Revels of Han Xizai. (Image via Shen Yun Performing Arts)
Maidens play the flute for Minister Han Xizai in this 10th century painting, ‘Night Revels of Han Xizai.’ (Image via Shen Yun Performing Arts)

The five notes of the Chinese pentatonic scale relate to the five different organ systems in traditional Chinese medicine: Heart, kidney, lung, spleen, and liver — metal, water, metal, earth, and wood.

The five notes are gong (宫), shang (商), jue (角), zi (徽), and yu (羽).

The first note, gong (宫), is connected to the earth element and digestive system. Music based on this note makes the person feel serene. Jue (角), on the other hand, is the tone for wood that is connected to liver health.

Music derives from the Chinese character for Medicine. (Image via Shen Yun Performing Arts)
The Chinese character for music derives from the character for medicine. (Image via Shen Yun Performing Arts)

The ancients believed elegant music that nurtures virtue would place a person’s organs in harmony, therefore having a healing effect on the body. Culture was a gift from the divine, and they felt a natural connection with the heavens.

If you have also wondered what the name Shen Yun means, here is an explainer:

Shen (神) is a general term for divine being. Ancient Chinese history is filled with these characters, whether they be deities, immortal Taoists, or Buddhas.

And the second part — Yun (韻) means “rhyme” or “rhythm” but, in this case, it translates to the subtle expression of one’s body language.

Traditional Chinese instruments from L-R the chime bowl, the pipa and the two-stringed erhu. (Image via Shen Yun Performing Arts)
Traditional Chinese musical instruments from left to right: The chime bowl, pipa, and two-stringed erhu. (Image via Shen Yun Performing Arts)

At last year’s show, when the erhu traditional Chinese instrument solo began, it was as if there was no one else in the theater — and it felt like it was almost talking directly to my heart. I have never heard such an instrument played so delicately before.

The music is a blend of East meets West, and it is perfectly harmonized to accompany the show, leaving you feeling warm inside.

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Jessica Kneipphttp://www.jessicakneipp.net
Jessica grew up in the tropics of North Australia. She writes about films, and occasionally gets to write and direct them. She has a love of silent films, they are the closest she will ever get to "time travel." However, on some real travels she spotted a polar bear while visiting the Arctic, and has enjoyed the view of the Mongolian plains on a train from Russia to China. Her favorite fruit is pomegranate and her most memorable gift is a Super 8 camera from her husband, which she is keen to shoot some footage of Antarctic icebergs on one day.  

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