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The VICE Guide to Right Now

Shen Yun Is Now a Meme and You Will Never Escape It

5,000 Years of Civilization Reborn!!!
Shen Yun memes
Image via Twitter, Twitter

Have you gone to a city once? Do you have eyeballs? If so, congratulations, you've seen a Shen Yun ad—the ones that often feature a young Chinese woman in folk dance attire leaping high above a dance troupe, bearing the tagline "5,000 YEARS OF CIVILIZATION REBORN."

I've always felt like these ads were everywhere, but I shook it off as a side effect of growing up in the suburban Greater Los Angeles area—a region with one of the largest Chinese American populations in the United States—and having a mom that casually learned and performed traditional Chinese folk dance in the mid-2000s. Add in our trips to the annual Asian American Expo in the Pomona Fairplex, and I genuinely assumed that the only reason I was seeing so many of these things was because I was the intended audience.


It turns out I was wrong: They actually are everywhere. The show tours internationally and advertises in every conceivable format and location—including subways, billboards, brochures, TV spots, and the radio. They're basically ubiquitous and everyone knows it, like some globe-spanning inside joke. And this new meme is, ironically, making Shen Yun even more ubiquitous and invasive.

Shen Yun was created in 2006 by Falun Gong practitioners—a Chinese religious and spiritual practice that has been banned by the communist Chinese government—"to revive the lost world of traditional Chinese culture and share it with everyone," according to its website. Now, thanks to The Internet, it has: Shen Yun is everywhere, it will be everywhere forever, and you will never, ever escape it.

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