Evan Mantyk, Contributing Writer
A wealthy cook, now retired from the imperial court, lives a comfortable life running a local restaurant. But, when a plague sweeps through the land, he shutters the restaurant and locks himself in his luxurious home. Despite all of his precautions, he too starts to suffer from the plague. What can he do now?! He decides that since his life is pretty much over, he should spend the rest of his breath on giving away all the food and money that he has and helping take care of those who are suffering.
This one righteous thought ends up leading the cook back to good health and helps turn around the situation for the entire town—and, with the help of a Taoist immortal, even the nation. This is the power of traditional Chinese culture!
In this story, passed down through the generations as real historical fact, we see that one’s positive thinking, which can also be translated as "righteous thoughts," plays the determining role in overcoming the plague. This dynamic of one’s thoughts and morality shaping the outcome of events is, if you think about it, very different from the modern scientific mode of thinking that has become commonplace today.
Normally, tiny biological components, such as DNA, cells, viruses, germs, antibodies, and so on, are thought to be the primary factors determining the spread of a plague and its ability to kill a person or a large group of people. In our story, a human being takes control of a situation and saves the day through means that are accessible to anyone. This is the reverse of the modern science-bound approach. It is not the tiny biological factors that are most important; it is those broad, unquantifiable, and unobservable factors like how one perceives the world and one’s place in it that play the determining role.
The power of one’s righteous thoughts is only one theme in the vast treasure trove of traditional Chinese culture. Zhongguo (中國), the Chinese name for China, literally means “Middle Kingdom,” and it has 5,000 years of culture filled with such treasured tales. In addition to the power of righteous thoughts, there is the crucial and beautiful value of filial piety, the inescapably powerful principle of retribution, the enchanting and mysterious tradition of spiritual cultivation, and so on, and so on.
Wise sages, heroic emperors, and noble ladies grace the epic stage of history in one scene after another. However, people today often think of traditional Chinese culture as beginning and ending with the Zhou Dynasty sage Confucius. In fact, Confucius is only the tip of the iceberg! The Treasured Tales of China series has been created to bring to life, for modern readers, the magic and wisdom of the flowing 5,000-year-long tapestry of traditional Chinese culture.
Many of the great themes, moral principles, and spiritual insights found in these stories can also be found to some extent in Western civilization—in ancient Greece and Rome; in Christian, Jewish, and other traditions; and in the many great empires, kingdoms, and republics that have come and gone in the West and throughout the world. Nonetheless, the stories from traditional Chinese culture presented here are unique in the irresistible boldness and charming style with which they present the high morals and virtues of all of human civilization.
For example, take the principle of retribution (good is rewarded and evil is punished). In the West, there is also the saying “You reap what you sow,” derived from the Bible, and the common adage “What goes around comes around.” Even Santa Claus “knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” However, the Chinese tradition is strongly influenced by Buddhism and thus believes in reincarnation and holds that lifetime after lifetime, everything is predestined and connected to karmic relationships. This makes for a rich and meaningful interplay among characters, their lives, and their actions—all leading back to the fact that good is rewarded and evil is punished.
Also, after 70 years of communist rule in China, traditional Chinese culture has been eroded and threatened with extinction by political campaigns like the Cultural Revolution. It is important to look back and see what exactly traditional Chinese culture is and to make sure that this treasure is not lost. Indeed, this is part of why Shen Yun was started in the first place in 2006, followed a few years later by the Shen Yun Shop.
The Shen Yun Shop is, of course, inspired by Shen Yun performances, but our designers also draw on 5,000 years of Chinese civilization and its culture. But what exactly is this culture? These treasured tales, presented here by the Shen Yun Shop, give a look into the essence of traditional Chinese culture, illustrating the strong values and rich heritage that inspire the creation and design of our Shen Yun Shop products. We hope you find them enlightening!
Photo courtesy of National Palace Museum Open Data.
Two friends took me to Shen Yun in Seattle in 2019. I loved it. We hope to take our son who is on the autism spectrum to Shen Yun in 2021. We went together to the online shop and he bought me a 2020 Flying Lady of the Court Compact for Mother’s Day. It’s beautiful. I treasure it and he looks forward to Shen Yun. Thank you for all you’re doing for the world.
Not only a beautiful story, but reveals the true spirit of goodness and the benefits of giving! Each Shen Yun performance I’ve seen, reinforces such feelings of goodness, of giving, and of hope. The entire company exudes such a wonderful feeling of joy that transcends words. All I know is what I’ve experienced in my association with Shen Yun will remain unforgettable. Please continue your support during this temporary shutdown and not let this deter their beautiful mission!
Saw performance in January 2019 and January 2020. Went with my friend and we both enjoyed so much. Thank you for these stories. All of you at Shen Yun take care. 🕊💕
Thank you 🙏 for for sharing this beautiful story!!! My sister and I went to Omaha Nebraska from Iowa to see the performance of Shen Yun February 3,2019. It was an amazing experience!! The music, clothing, dancing and most of all the stories!!! I purchased a compact, mailing cards and other items. I had tears of joy just being able to have such a beautiful experience that I will always hold dear to my heart ❤️!!! Thank you!! Constance from Iowa.
In today’s society people do not believe in mysticism, you have to be really good person with high morality to be able to look at the world as people in old KIna, compared to how people think now, it is like heaven and earth,. You feel purified and uplifted when you read such stories and you also want to be one of them (one of high morality). Today’s people believe in science instead, it makes their lives miserable and heavy. With today’s pandemic people are waiting and believing in vaccines that can save their lives and that may never be produced, but the solution is very close to us: to change one’s way of thinking and change oneself to be a better person …
Looking forward to hearing more of these stories! They are valuable and needed in our time.
I am delighted to see you Introducing new “Treasured Tales of China” Series. Evan is a great writer and I enjoy reading every word. Keep them coming!
I recently signed up and bought some jewelry. I have read a few Filial Piety stories you presented. Would you show me where I can read all the stories you have written?
Thank you and best regards,
Just a quick note to let you know that I attended your performance in Fairfax, VA – George Mason Center for the Performing Arts on 3/11/20. So glad it was before the lockdown. Attending your performance was in my bucket list. Went with two girlfriends since husband was not interested. Good memories!
What a lovely story about the true culture of China.
A heartening and welcome wisdom-story
An enlightening and lovely story about the true Zhongguo. Thankyou