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Child Prodigies of Classical Music

Prodigy Umi Garrett is now 18 years old. She was the Category A Grand Prix winner, at age 10, of the II Chopin International Competition in Hartford, Conn., in 2010.(UmiGarrett.com)

Motivated from within or without?

By Jani Allan

May 1, 2019 Updated: May 2, 2019

There was always music in our house when I was growing up: operas and piano sonatas and string quartets. I still remember the sound of the needle poised on a record making the noise of hushed applause before the music started.

When I was 4, my mother asked me if I would like to learn to play the piano. I replied that I would teach myself. She immediately set about finding me a teacher. A series of teachers, really, as I was deemed a prodigy; I moved up the totem pole of tutors.

My mother’s ambitions for my concert-pianist future coursed through her veins. My last teacher was Professor Adolph Hallis. Professor Hallis accepted only exceptional pupils.

His other star student was Marian Friedman. Marian was talented, diligent, and dedicated. I could tell. I would be sitting on a tapestry couch in the waiting room, waiting for her to be released.

When I was 10, I played with the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra. When, at age 14, I was selected to play at the Young Artists Concerto Festival, I started having pre-recital nerves. I also resented the four hours I had to practice the piano every day. Prodigiousness in childhood does not always predict adult eminence.

Marian went on refining her brilliance. She is described as a “connoisseur’s pianist” by The Boston Globe. In the Globe’s July 13, 2005 article, it was reported from Rhode Island that Mark Malkovich III, general director of the Newport Music Festival for 30 years, celebrated his 75th birthday with a present to himself: getting Marian Friedman to play a recital.

She is extremely low-profile.

At What Price?

Stories of child prodigies in the classical genre have a long history and include the greatest composers in Western history.

When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 6, he performed on the harpsichord for The Empress of Austria.

Maria Theresa and her family looked at his chubby, dimpled hands moving precisely on the keyboard and were charmed. When he finished the performance, the story goes, he ran up to the empress, climbed up on her knee, and kissed her.

She returned the kiss, enchanted by his character and his talent. He was giving piano and violin recitals. It is said that at the age of 3, he had perfect pitch. By age 5, he had composed a concerto and by 8, his first symphony.

Mozart’s father, Leopold, was probably the original pushy parent, forcing him to perform all over Europe. Few know that Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl), was also a prodigy, but her destiny was marriage.

Mozart seemed to cope with the great expectations that come with precocious talent.

Others haven’t.

Violinist Niccolò Paganini was locked in a room and forced to practice, a regimen that, some said, helped him to develop a drinking problem by the time he was 16.

Niccolo Paganini portrait by ean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres" width="855" height="1200" /> Some child prodigies develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures they suffer. A portrait of Niccolò Paganini, 1819, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. (Public Domain)
Niccolo Paganini portrait by ean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres” width=”855″ height=”1200″ /> Some child prodigies develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures they suffer. A portrait of Niccolò Paganini, 1819, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. (Public Domain)

Some prodigies thought to have “the gift” had demanding fathers who doubled as demanding teachers.

Lang Lang is a Chinese concert pianist whose accomplishments include performances with the Berlin Philharmonic at the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games, a White House state dinner, and sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall. From the age of 2, Lang Lang would sit with his father, Lang Guoren, who made his son practice up to four hours a day. As Lang Lang grew older, he practiced eight hours a day. Growing up in Mao’s China, the father’s own dreams of musical success were smashed. He wanted his son to be the musician he was never allowed to be.

Did his determination border on psychological or physical abuse? Lang says no. He and his father wanted the same thing: for Lang Lang to become a globally famous musician. “I was never forced to play the piano,” he said in a China Daily article.

Genius as an Abnormality

What are child prodigies? Are they completely different human beings? Apart from agreeing that prodigies possess levels of ability that most adults never can, we still don’t know where prodigiousness originates from. The debate of nature versus nurture continues to rage.

Writer David Shenk goes as far as to argue that prodigiousness is not in fact genetic.

Scientists continue to debate the origins of prodigiousness. General intelligence, working memory, or even a form of autism could be responsible, they argue, as NeuroNation reports. Piano teacher Veda Kaplinsky of Juilliard said to The New York Times: “Genius is an abnormality and can signal other abnormalities … ADD or OCD or Asperger’s.” Scholars argue that Mozart himself was on the autism spectrum.

Child Prodigies Today

There is a long history of child prodigies in the classical music genre. Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Mendelssohn are just a few.

But in recent years, a growing number of prodigies of increasingly young ages are reaching a global audience. China has an estimated 30 million young pianists and 10 million young violinists, The New York Times says. And Newsweek reports that Chinese prodigies are attending European and North American music schools and conservatories.

According to Murray McLachlan, a teacher at Cheltham’s School of Music in Manchester, England, the success of the Chinese at music competitions is unsurprising. McLachlan observed, in the Independent, that this success derives from the rock-solid work ethos of their families.

“Musicians are doing more advanced things at a younger age than ever before,” Kaplinsky said, in Newsweek. “Today kids are recording the Chopin études at age 10,” she said. “When I was young, nobody played them until they were adults.”

Chopin,_by_Wodzinska" width="640" height="863" /> Chopin’s études, considered some of the most challenging pieces in the piano repertoire, are now being played by children. Portrait of Chopin, 1835, by his fiancée Maria Wodzinska. (Public Domain)
Chopin,_by_Wodzinska” width=”640″ height=”863″ /> Chopin’s études, considered some of the most challenging pieces in the piano repertoire, are now being played by children. Portrait of Chopin, 1835, by his fiancée Maria Wodzinska. (Public Domain)

It’s the Olympic syndrome: Records exist in order to be broken.

Umi Garrett, who was 8 years old when she played Liszt on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” displayed the commonality of prodigious children: an extraordinary desire and dedication.

She told Ellen that she would play the piano “all day long” if she could.

Choosing a Path

This begs the question, should I have cut short my own classical music career?

I was 18 when it was decided that I would go to the University of the Witwatersrand to study for a bachelor’s degree in music.

At the last minute, I changed my mind about doing music and enrolled for a degree in fine arts instead.

Wits School of Arts in the 1970s shines like a diamond in the dust bunnies of my memory.

I’ve come to understand that the ultimate achievement of any human being is love. We need to love what we do. If we hesitate, then we need to rock with the waves and invent a new way of being in the world.

Jani Allan is a South African journalist, columnist, writer, and broadcaster.

Venezuela’s Violent Suppression of Protesters Aided by Chinese Military Supplies

Opposition demonstrators clash with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaidó in his campaign to oust Maduro’s government, in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

By Frank Fang, Epoch Times

May 2, 2019 Updated: May 3, 2019

The recent violent suppression of protests against the ruling regime in Venezuela, captured on camera by international media outlets, sparked public outrage.

The military armor vehicle that ran over protestors was manufactured by a Chinese state-run defense company, highlighting China’s role in supporting the current dictatorship.

In the morning hours on April 30, unarmed protestors backing Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader and head of Venezuela’s National Assembly who declared himself acting president in January, took to the streets of Caracas.

They assembled after Guaidó called on supporters to gather on the streets to begin the “final phase” of his plan to oust Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.

The peaceful protest turned ugly outside a military base in Caracas, when a Venezuelan National Guard vehicle ran over protestors, according to accounts and footage filmed by Reuters. Other protestors could be seen rushing to the aid of those who were hit by the vehicle. It isn’t known how many were injured or if there were any fatalities.

Venezolana de Televisión, Venezuela’s state-run broadcaster, briefly mentioned the morning hour protest in a report published May 1. While calling Guaidó a “coup deputy,” the article mentioned that eight VN-4 vehicles were present at the protest site. These vehicles later withdrew and returned to their military units, according to the report.

Several Spanish-language media also identified the vehicle that plowed into protestors as a VN-4 vehicle, including Argentinian news website Infobae, Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia, and Mexico-based media Cultura Colectiva. They pointed out that VN-4 vehicles are nicknamed the “Rhinoceros.”

Indeed, the VN-4 are from China. They are light, tactical-armored vehicles manufactured by China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco), which is owned by China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, an agency under the cabinet-like State Council.

Chinese media reports indicate that the VN-4 was ready for export since at least 2009. It was first unveiled to the public at a police equipment exhibition in Beijing that year. It has since been exported to Venezuela, Kenya, Sudan, Cambodia, among others.

Opposition demonstrator injured from Venezuelan security forces using an armored vehicle to ram demonstrators during clashes in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition demonstrator injured from Venezuelan security forces using an armored vehicle to ram demonstrators during clashes in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuela’s use of these vehicles has not been for normal peacekeeping purposes. In testimony before a U.S. congressional hearing in September 2017, Evan Ellis, senior associate at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated that “the VN-4 armored cars and VN-16 light tanks sold by the P.R.C. [People’s Republic of China] to Venezuela, and designed for riot control, have arguably contributed to efforts by Venezuela’s current regime to suppress democratic protests.”

Venezuela has built up its stock of VN-4 over the years, some being donations from China.

According to an October 2018 report on China’s engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean by the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, Venezuela ordered 121 VN-4 vehicles from China in 2012, which were delivered between 2013 and 2015. Chinese state-run media reported in 2013 about its first delivery of the VN-4s to Venezuela.

Then, in November 2015, Venezuela’s state-run newspaper Correo del Orinoco, reported comments made by Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, about the arrival of 560 VN-4 vehicles that were donated by Beijing.

In June 2017, Spanish-language daily El Nuevo Herald, which is published in Florida, reported that more than 150 vehicles, including VN-4s, were delivered from Norinco to Venezuela.

Given the timing, it is likely the armored vehicles deployed to suppress past protests were also VN-4s.

El Nuevo Herald reported comments by Henrique Capriles, then-opposition leader and governor of Miranda State, who expressed outrage at both the Venezuelan government and Beijing for the purchases, saying the vehicles would be used to suppress people.

“It is unacceptable that in the most serious food and medicine crisis in history, China sells equipment to suppress the people with hunger,” Capriles said.

Norinco

Norinco was founded in 1980 with approval from the State Council and China’s Central Military Commission—the highest military governing body within the Chinese Communist Party.

On its website, the company description explains that, for the past 40 years, the company has consistently “listened to the party, and followed the party.” It boasts that “party-building” within the company has powered its development to become a global competitor.

The company has explicitly stated its support for China’s foreign policy project, One Belt, One Road (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road), an initiative launched in 2013 to build up geopolitical influence via investments across Southeast Asia, African, Europe, and Latin America.

Norinco also is known to have armed unethical governments and criminal organizations, while being accused of human rights abuses.

In 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released the results of an investigation into whether the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in an attack on three towns in northern Syria in April 2014.

HRW found strong evidence to the affirmative, noting that there were canisters with the markings “Cl2,” which is the chemical symbol for chlorine gas, and “NORINCO,” which “indicates that the cylinders were manufactured in China by the state-owned company NORINCO,” the report said.

Opposition demonstrator clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in front of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition demonstrator clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in front of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

In August 2015, a U.N. report called out Norinco for selling the South Sudan government 100 anti-tank guided missile launchers, 1,200 missiles, about 2,400 grenade launchers, nearly 10,000 automatic rifles, and 24 million rounds of various types of ammunition, according to the Associated Press.

The South Sudan government was condemned for war crimes committed during the civil war of 2013 that pitted forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir against those who rebelled under former deputy Riek Machar. According to Reuters, South Sudanese soldiers have been accused of raping children, burning people alive, and razing villages.

Norinco also manufactures guns and rifles, one of them being the Type 56 rifle, a variant of the Soviet-designed AK-47.

Amnesty International, in a 2009 report, stated that “Chinese-made Norinco guns are frequently used by criminal gangs in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, and South Africa.”

In February, U.S. magazine The National Interest identified several models of Norinco guns that are being widely used in the Middle East by the ISIS terrorist group and the Syrian regime. The Type 56 rifles are “common on international arms markets and often bought up by nations looking to arm groups with some level of deniability,” the report added.

Norinco is also in the mining business through its subsidiary Wanbao Mining. Zimbabwe politicians have arranged lucrative mining contracts to Chinese companies, including Norinco, in exchange for arms. Wanbao holds several mineral rights in the African country, according to a 2013 article by Zimbabwean radio station Nehanda Radio.

Also, in February 2017, Amnesty International called on Burmese authorities to shut down a copper mine operated by Wanbao due to human rights abuses, including forced evictions of locals living near the mine.

10 Amazing Benefits of Hugging—According to Science

Hugs have a biochemical impact that lasts longer than the embrace. (Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash)

Hugs trigger the release of oxytocin with a cascade of emotional and physical benefits

BY NATURALLYSAVVY.COM

April 13, 2019 Updated: April 14, 2019

Hugs are a powerful expression of trust and affection. They are also surprisingly impactful thanks to their effect on our emotions through the release of oxytocin. Here are 10 reasons why you need to hug every day.

1. Hugs Can Help to Treat Insomnia and Anxiety

Lack of sleep can create a long list of secondary health issues that can disrupt the body’s normal function, and increase the risk of serious medical problems like heart attacks. Studies have found that sleeping with weighted blankets helps insomnia and anxiety.

Weighted blankets are filled with plastic poly pellets and weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. They work by relaxing the nervous system via extra pressure—a form of deep touch therapy. Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is felt when we touch, hold, or stroke others, or when we pet animals.

Basically, the blanket molds to the body like a warm hug. The body responds as if it is receiving physical contact, and the brain releases serotonin, causing the nervous system to relax. With the nervous system relaxed the body is able to fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.

A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offered safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety in patients. These results were confirmed in a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which indicated that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.

2. Hugging Reduces Fear of Mortality

As human beings, we all know that we are going to die someday. This can be very frightening for people with low self-esteem who feel like they are not living meaningful lives.

In a series of studies on fears and self-esteem published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers demonstrated that hugs and touch significantly reduce the fear of death and mortality.

In one particular study, participants were approached as they walked through a university campus and handed a questionnaire to fill out. Some of the participants received a light, open-palmed touch from the researcher as they were handed the forms, while others were not given any physical interaction.

Few things affirm our affection as powerfully as a hug. (Shutterstock)
Few things affirm our affection as powerfully as a hug. (Shutterstock)

The results showed that participants with low self-esteem, who received the physical touch, reported less death anxiety on the questionnaire than those who had not been touched.

Touch also appeared to act as a buffer against social alienation. Participants with low self-esteem demonstrated no noticeable decrease in social connectedness after being reminded of death, but only if they had received a light touch.

This research suggests that touch plays a beneficial role in providing comfort and reassurance to people who are depressed and dealing with the thought of their mortality.

3. Hugs Can Decrease Food Cravings

We often eat for our emotions, rather than our hunger. In fact, the brain circuit that controls eating overlaps with the brain circuit that controls interpersonal relationships.

Eating sends oxytocin in the dopamine-rich areas of the brain, making us feel pleasure and relaxation. This helps explain why eating can be soothing and pleasurable. This also explains why we’re drawn to emotional eating; it mimics the same feelings of comfort we get from close friends and family.

But oxytocin is also released by physical contact and supportive interactions with other people. The release of oxytocin brings on feelings of trust and generosity. It also reduces stress and anxiety.

Improving our relationships, therefore, can have an impact on weight loss. By increasing the quality and closeness of our relationships, we increase the amount of oxytocin in our system and that reduces food cravings.

4. Hugs Increase Bonding and Strengthen Relationships

Relationship expert Dr. Pam Spurr notes that the simple act of hugging can go a long way in keeping relationships healthy and happy.

Moments shared in a warm embrace nurture relationships that last a lifetime. (Anastasia Vityukova/Unsplash)
Moments shared in a warm embrace nurture relationships that last a lifetime. (Anastasia Vityukova/Unsplash)

For couples, hugging helps to bridge the gap between what happens in the bedroom and what happens in day-to-day life. It maintains the intimacy that occurs when making love and ensures that partners feel emotionally connected to each other.

A study reported in the Daily Mail suggested that hugs are more important for a couple’s happiness than sex. The article notes that hugging provides many benefits including stimulating our touch centers and our olfactory centers (the part of our brain responsible for smell). This is why the smell and touch of our partner make us feel loved and cared for.

Hugs also provide a form of communication separate from sex, which allows couples to feel close without draining their energy. When couples touch, they let down their guard and feel love and acceptance towards their partner. Touching and hugging is the best way to maintain a strong emotional bond and connection.

5. Hugs Improve Self-Esteem

Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. Touch and smell are the two most important senses in infants, and a baby recognizes its parent by touch. From the time we are born, our family’s touch shows us that we are special and loved.

A young child’s brain needs a lot of stimulation to grow and develop. Physical touch is one of the most important stimulations that can facilitate child development.

Hugs deliver a neurological boost that can help us grow into more confident, healthier people. (Xavier Mouton Photographie/Unsplash)
Hugs deliver a neurological boost that can help us grow into more confident, healthier people. (Xavier Mouton Photographie/Unsplash)

This is demonstrated in observations of infants in eastern European orphanages that had limited physical contact. They usually suffered from impaired growth and cognitive development.

Researchers have found that when institutionalized infants received an average of 20 minutes of touch a day for 10 weeks, they subsequently scored higher on developmental assessments.

This association between self-worth and touch remains embedded within our nervous system as adults. Hugs remind us of the affection we received as babies and therefore connect us to our ability to self-love.

6. Hugging Causes Muscles to Relax

If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how relaxed it can make you feel. This is not just a mental sensation: massage causes muscles to unclench, the heart rate to slow, and cortisol levels to drop. Once that happens your body is able to relax and recharge, resulting in a happier emotional state and a heightened immune system.

Oxytocin, which is released into the bloodstream while hugging, helps the body to repair muscles more quickly. It does this by enabling fat in the body to be converted into energy and used for muscle repair. Healthy levels of oxytocin lead to better energy conversion, and therefore better muscle repair and muscle growth.

7. Hugs Increase Empathy and Understanding

Oxytocin has other benefits too. When oxytocin is released into the body, it produces a feeling of empathy.

A study conducted by Jorge A. Barraza and Paul J. Zak tested the effects of oxytocin on 145 college students from the University of California–Los Angeles. The students were randomly divided into three groups; one group watched an emotional video and played an ultimatum game which consisted of offering to share a fixed sum of money; the second group watched a control video and played an ultimatum game, and the third group only watched an emotional video.

The results showed that watching the emotional video increased oxytocin levels by 47 percent. Consequently, the participants experienced a change in empathy levels, as demonstrated in greater generosity during the ultimatum game.

Hugs let us know we are trusted and cared for. (Hian Oliveira/Unsplash)
Hugs let us know we are trusted and cared for. (Hian Oliveira/Unsplash)

The study illustrated how oxytocin increases empathy, even between total strangers. Just by hugging someone, oxytocin is released into the brain, triggering a feeling of empathy in our brains.

8. Hugs Increase Happiness

A UCLA study of 236 people in 2011 showed that raised levels of oxytocin promote optimism and self-esteem.

As we hug and release oxytocin, our ‘happiness scale’ is raised. In fact, studies estimate that 50 percent of our happiness is genetic, 10 percent is affected by our environment, and forty percent is determined by how we are nurtured.

In a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, students were divided into two groups. The first group was instructed to give or receive a minimum of five hugs a day over the course of four weeks. They had to hug as many different people as possible, and record the details. The second group, the control group, was instructed to record the number of hours they read each day, for four weeks.

At the end of four weeks, the hugging group had hugged an average of 49 times each and reported being much happier. Unsurprisingly, the reading group reported no changes.

9. Hugs Are Great for Your Sex Life

Researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga tested the correlation between post-sex affectionate behavior (kissing, cuddling and talking) and sexual and relationship satisfaction. The two-part study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, used an online survey of 335 individuals, and a 21 day survey of 101 couples.

In the online survey, participants reported that on average they engaged in affectionate behavior after sex for a period of approximately 15 minutes. Couples in the second study were then asked to cuddle for longer than this period of time.

The study concluded that couples who spent extra time together felt more satisfied with their sex lives and with their relationship. This level of satisfaction remained consistently higher, even three months after the original survey, indicating that taking time to share intimacy after sex reaffirms the emotional and sexual bond between a couple and makes it stronger.

10. Hugs Teach Us to Give and Receive

Hugging is a reciprocal act; we give and we receive. In hugging, we recognize that there is equal value in giving and being receptive to comfort and warmth.

Hugs show us that love flows both ways. When we hug someone we are opening ourselves up to their energy field, and building a relationship of trust.

Virginia Satir, a famous psychologist, once said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance, and 12 hugs for growth. Now that you have the scientific proof of all the amazing benefits that hugging can provide, don’t delay—start hugging today!

This article was first published on NaturallySavvy.com

China Evolves From ‘Copier’ to ‘Innovator,’ Posing a Serious Threat, Say Experts

An employee works on a mobile phone production line at a Huawei production base during a media tour in Dongguan, China’s Guangdong province on March 6, 2019. (WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

BY EMEL AKAN

April 14, 2019 Updated: April 14, 2019

WASHINGTON—A new report shows that China is not just a copier of technology, but is also moving faster in innovation and in developing advanced technology industries than the United States.

The U.S. think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) examines various areas where China has made progress and closed the innovation gap with America in the last decade. The report uses 36 indicators in measuring Chinese performance and shows that China has closed the gap or, in some cases, even outstripped the United States.

“If China were only a copier, then the competitive threat to advanced economies would be limited,” the report stated. “But there is no reason to believe China won’t follow the path of ‘Asian tigers’ that rapidly evolved from copiers to innovators, which poses a serious threat.”

To become a global innovation leader, China is following the path of Asian tigers such as Japan and South Korea. The country made notable progress in the last decade in the areas of research and development (R&D), university performance, patents, entrepreneurial activity, industrial sales, and exports, according to the report.

China, for example, increased its R&D investment significantly during the ten-year period. In 2007, the country invested $129 billion in R&D, which was 33 percent of the R&D spending in the United States. By 2017, the gap was reduced, reaching 76 percent of U.S. levels and surpassing the European Union, stated the report.

U.S. patents issued to Chinese companies, which is an important indicator of innovation, also jumped in recent years.

Nearly half of the patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office each year go to foreign inventors. In 2006, the United States granted 1,066 patents to Chinese, which accounted for 1.2 percent of patents granted to U.S. inventors. By 2016, the number had risen to more than 11,000, which equaled 8.0 percent of U.S. patents.

The study also highlights the role universities play in national innovation systems, as they produce skilled scientists and engineers as well as entrepreneurs and innovators. About 7 million students in China obtain a bachelor’s degree every year, with over 30 percent receiving an engineering degree, compared with just 5 percent in the United States. The report also finds that as a share of the population, China produces 46 percent more computer science and engineering degrees than the United States.

China is also not just relying on Chinese-educated scientists and engineers, according to the report. The country is actively recruiting foreign engineers and scientists from other Asian countries and the United States by paying them very high salaries, which is all backed by government subsidies.

The development in Chinese high-tech manufacturing also provides insight into China’s innovation. For example, Chinese high-tech exports grew from 139 percent of U.S. levels in 2006 to 203 percent in 2016. And value-added—the measure of industry output minus inputs such as raw materials, energy, and so on—increased from 30 percent in 2006 to 77 percent in 2016. If the pace of growth continues, China will surpass the United States in high-tech manufacturing value added by 2020, said the report.

In other sectors such as information and communication technology, semiconductors, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, high-speed rail, and aerospace, the report showed that China made dramatic progress relative to the United States in the last decade.

The United States, however, had gained competencies and leadership in many sectors by investing trillions of dollars in R&D, workforce training, and other areas in order to innovate complex products, according to the report.

“The Chinese government knows that if it proceeds the fair and ‘natural’ way that it will take it many decades or more to seriously close the innovation gap with the global leaders,” said the report.

Hence, it resorts to various policies to obtain the know-how it needs from foreign companies, such as theft of intellectual property, forced joint ventures and technology transfer, and state-subsidized acquisition of foreign advanced industry firms.

“Korea went through the same process of development China is now following,” stated the report. “Like China, Korea was initially focused on copying.”

If China rapidly evolves from a copier to innovator, however, the negative impact on advanced economies will be big because the Chinese economy is massive and it is much more difficult to get China to compete fairly, according to the report.

The loss of leadership in innovation and technology has two implications for advanced economies. The first one is it reduces prosperity and living standards. The second factor relates to national security and the defense industrial base, which is a significant problem for the United States as its defense superiority is driven largely by technological superiority, says the report.

Follow Emel on Twitter: @mlakan

Stories From the Students’ Rules: Humility and Duty as a Sibling and Before Elders

Along with his father Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi was a renowned calligrapher of the Chinese Jin Dynasty. (Public Domain)

BY DANIEL TENG

March 19, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

The “Standards for Being a Good Student and Child” (Di Zi Gui) is a traditional Chinese textbook for children that teaches children morals and proper etiquette. It was written by Li Yuxiu in the Qing Dynasty, during the reign of Emperor Kang Xi (1661-1722). In this series, we present some ancient Chinese stories that exemplify the valuable lessons taught in the Di Zi Gui. The second chapter of the Di Zi Gui instructs readers to fulfill their duties as siblings.

It is written in the Di Zi Gui:

The older brother shall be friendly
And the young brother respectful.
When elder and younger are harmonious,
Xiao (filial piety) is achieved.

Taking riches lightly,
There is no cause for resentment.
Speaking with tolerance,
Anger will dissipate naturally.

A good sibling should always place his elder and younger siblings before himself. A famous example is the descendant of Confucius Kong Rong, who learned to share at an early age.

Kong Rong (153-208 A.D.), the 20th-generation-descendant of Confucius, was a high-ranking official during the reign of Emperor Ling in the Eastern Han Dynasty. As he was once the chancellor of Beihai (present-day Weifang, Shandong Province), he was also known as Kong Beihai. During his tenure, Kong Rong built cities and schools, and advocated Confucianism. He was also a famed poet and essayist.

Kong Rong was known to be good-tempered and hospitable, and his house was always full of guests. Kong Rong upheld etiquette, and as a child he became a household name when he demonstrated great generosity among his brothers.

There were seven brothers in Kong’s family and he was the sixth son. When Kong Rong was four years old, being the youngest child then, he was given first priority in choosing from a basket a pears. However, he chose the smallest pear, leaving the big ones for his elder brothers. Even after his younger brother was born, Kong Rong would give his older and younger brothers the larger pears, leaving the smallest for himself.

When asked why, Kong Rong said, “My elder brothers should have the bigger pears because they’re older, but my younger brother should also have the bigger pear as it’s my responsibility to take care of my younger brother.” Kong Rong’s response earned the praise of the Kong family and of those who heard of it.

This story has been handed down as a much-told story of etiquette and fraternal love, and to this day it remains an essential part of children’s formative education.

Prime Minister Li Mian Forfeits his Friend’s Gold

Li Mian (717-788 AD) was an official and general of the Tang Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Dezong. He was a descendant of Tang’s founding emperor, Emperor Gaozu.

Li was poor during his early years, but he did not try to seek ill-gotten wealth. He instead spent his time studying texts, from which he acquired an honest and trustworthy character. One day, Li met a rich scholar who was going to the capital to complete his studies and take the Imperial Exam.

The two became very good friends. But the scholar became seriously ill one day, and Li took care of him and treated him just like his own sibling.

The scholar eventually succumbed to his illness. Before his death, he begged Li to keep the balance of his gold that remained after paying for his funeral arrangements. Li had no choice but to accept the gift, in order for the scholar pass on in peace. Ultimately, however, Li did not keep a single dime. He secretly hid the gold under the scholar’s coffin, and returned the scholar’s silver to the scholar’s family.

During his appointment as Jie du shi in Lingnan, Li didn’t use his power to usurp the fortunes or property of the foreign merchants. He always politely declined any gifts from merchants, and, on his retirement, he even threw all the rhino horns and ivory his family had received into the river.

During his two decades of service as an official, Li distributed his salary to his relatives and subordinates, leaving little for himself. As a result, he was found to have no savings when he passed away. Li was honored greatly and given the posthumous title of Zhen Jian, meaning “He Who is Pure and Simple.”

Be Humble Before Your Elders

It is stated in the Di Zi Gui:

When addressing a distinguished elder,
Do not use his personal name.
When before a distinguished elder,
Do not show off your talents.

Aside from requiring the use of proper salutations when speaking with elders, an important aspect of traditional Chinese etiquette is modesty.

An ancient calligrapher from the Jin Dynasty, and Han Dynasty founding hero Zhang Liang famously respected their elders in their youth. They learned to be humble and hence acquired knowledge and skills from their elders.

Renowned calligrapher Wang Xizhi, known as the Sage of Calligraphy in China, lived during the Jin Dynasty (303–361 A.D.) and had seven children, among whom his youngest son, Wang Xianzhi, (344-386) was also a distinguished calligrapher.

By the time Xianzhi was 15 years old, he had already achieved a great level of skill in calligraphy and often received praise from his father and other elders. Xianzhi hence became arrogant and lazy, thinking that his ability was already excellent and that he no longer needed to put in the effort to work hard and improve himself.

There is a story about how Wang Xizhi helped his son realize the foolishness of his arrogance and understand the importance of diligence. One day, Wang Xizhi was summoned to the capital and to bid him farewell, his family held a lavish dinner. Fine food and wine were served at the feast. While slightly intoxicated, Wang Xizhi had a sudden inspiration to write some words of wisdom as guidance for Xianzhi.

Wang Xizhi wrote a poem on the wall called “Precepts Against Arrogance” (戒驕詩 ), advising Xianzhi not to be arrogant but to work hard. Xianzhi, however, was not entirely convinced. He copied the poem dozens of times each day, and just before his father returned home, he erased his father’s words when no one was looking and rewrote it in the same location on the wall, imitating his father’s calligraphy.

Xianzhi was very proud of himself. In his arrogance, he thought his calligraphy was just as good as his father’s and that no one would be able to tell the difference.

When Wang Xizhi came home, he looked intently at the poem on the wall for a long time, then scratched his head and sighed.”Could I have drunk too much wine that night, to have written such clumsy characters?” he exclaimed.

His son instantly blushed, feeling deeply uneasy and ashamed. Wang Xianzhi finally realized that only through diligent study and hard work could he eventually become a renowned calligrapher.

Zhang Liang and the Shoes of the Old Sage

Zhang Liang (around 262–189 B.C.), courtesy name Zhifang, was born in the State of Han (located around what is now the center of Henan Province). In order to avoid the chaos of war, his family moved to Nanyang in Henan and then moved to the Pei Kingdom. Later on, he settled down in Pei Kingdom and became a citizen there.

In Zhang Liang’s childhood, on a windy, snowy winter day, he happened upon Yishui Bridge in the town of Xiapi. There he met an old man wearing a yellow shirt and a black hood. The old man threw one of his shoes down to the bridge on purpose and said to Zhang Liang:

“Little boy, please go to pick my shoe back up for me.” Zhang Liang did not hesitate. Regardless of the danger of slipping into the river and being exposed to the cold wind, he went down to the bridge and picked up the shoe for the old man. The old man did not take the shoe, but offered his foot to Zhang Liang and asked him to put the shoe on for him. Zhang Liang did not mind and respectfully did what the old man told him to do. The old man smiled and said: “Boy, I see much promise in you. Come here tomorrow morning and I will teach you some things.”

Zhang Liang respected the elder and put his shoes on for him.
Zhang Liang respected the elder and put his shoes on for him.

The next day, before the crack of dawn, Zhang Liang came to the bridge and saw that the old man was already there. The old man said: “You came here later than me. I cannot teach you the Tao today.” It happened like this three times.

The third time, Zhang Liang finally got to the bridge earlier than the old man. The old man finally gave Zhang Liang a book and said: “When you fully understand this book, you will be able to serve as the chief military counselor for a king in the future. If you need my help in the future, come to see me. I am the yellow stone at the foot of Gucheng Mountain.”

Zhang Liang went back home and he studied the book very carefully. Finally he mastered its essence. He was able to understand all of its intricacy and became very familiar with military tactics. Later, he assisted Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han dynasty, to found the Han dynasty and unite China.

Every thought shows one’s true colors

Yu Liangchen wished to become a scholar-bureaucrat, which was only achievable by passing the civil service exam. Here the exam candidates gather to see the exam results. A painting by Qiu Ying, circa1540. (Public Domain)

Ancient Chinese Stories: What’s Inside Counts

BY ANONYMOUS

March 6, 2019 Updated: March 6, 2019

During the Ming Dynasty, Yu Liangchen and his peers created a community where members did good deeds and were forbidden to kill, visit prostitutes, curse, or talk behind others’ backs.

Yu ran this community for many years, yet he encountered misfortunes, one after another.

Yu took the imperial examinations seven times but never passed.

He and his wife had nine children—five boys and four girls—but four of the boys and three of the girls died early. The surviving boy was very smart and had two birthmarks on the sole of his left foot, and the couple loved him dearly. Sadly, at age 6, he disappeared while playing outside. Yu’s wife wept over the loss of her children and eventually became blind.

In addition, the family was by this time living in poverty.

Yu wondered why he was punished with such a horrible fate when he’d never committed any wrongdoing.

An Unexpected Visitor

One evening, when Yu was 47, he heard a knock at the door. An old man was outside. After Yu invited him inside, the elderly gentleman explained that he had come to visit because he knew Yu’s family was feeling low.

Yu noticed that the man’s manner of speaking was not that of an ordinary mortal, so he treated him with deep respect. He told his guest that he studied hard and did good deeds his entire life but still had a horrible life.

“I have known about your family for a long time,” said the guest. “You have too many evil thoughts, you complain and pursue fame, and you dishonored the Jade Emperor. I’m afraid even more punishment awaits you.”

Stunned, Yu asked, “I know that a person’s good and evil deeds are all recorded in detail. I vowed to do good for others and controlled my behavior. How have I been pursuing fame?”

“You say you don’t kill, but you constantly cook crabs and lobsters in your kitchen. You say you watch your words, but you’re always sarcastic, angering many gods. You say you don’t use prostitutes, but your heart moves when you see beautiful women,” answered the old man.

Ming Dynasty portrait of a Chinese official. (Public Domain)
Ming Dynasty portrait of a Chinese official. (Public Domain)

“It’s even worse that you claim you’re dedicated to doing good deeds. The Jade Emperor sent a messenger to check your records, and you’ve not done one single good deed in many years.

“On the contrary, your thoughts are filled with greed, lust, and jealousy. You elevate yourself through belittling others. You want revenge whenever you think of the past. With a mind this malicious, you can’t escape disaster. How dare you pray for blessings?” continued the guest.

“Master, you know all about me. You must be an immortal! Please save me!” cried Yu, panic-stricken.

The old man advised: “I hope you can abandon greed, lust, jealousy, and various desires. Don’t pursue fame and self-interest. Then you will be rewarded with goodness.” He then disappeared.

Rewarded With Goodness

The next day, Yu prayed to heaven and swore to change. Determined to eliminate all improper thoughts, he gave himself a Taoist name: “Empty Thought.”

From then on, he paid attention to every thought and action. He saw to it that all of his deeds, whether big or small, effectively benefited others. Whenever he had the chance, he told people about the principles of karmic retribution.

At age 50, Yu was hired to tutor the son of Zhang Juzheng, the prime minister of Emperor Wanli. Yu and his family moved to the capital, and Yu passed the imperial exams the following year.

One day Yu went to visit the eunuch Yang Gong and met Yang’s five adopted sons. One of them—a 16-year-old—looked familiar to Yu. Yu learned that he was born in Yu’s own hometown, Jiangling, but was separated from his family when he accidentally boarded a grain boat as a child.

Yu asked the boy to take off his left shoe. When he saw two birthmarks on the sole, Yu exclaimed, “You’re my son!”

The shocked eunuch was happy for them and immediately sent the boy to Yu’s residence. Yu rushed to tell his wife the good news. She cried so bitterly that her eyes bled. Her son held her face with his hands and kissed her eyes. Suddenly, her vision returned.

Yu was overcome with both grief and joy. He no longer wanted to be a high-ranking official and asked to return to his hometown. Admiring Yu’s moral character, Zhang approved his request and sent him a generous gift.

Back home, Yu worked even harder for others’ benefit. His son married and had seven children, who carried on their grandfather’s tradition. Influenced by them, people truly believed that karmic retribution is real.

Translated by Dora Li into English, this story is reprinted with permission from the book “Treasured Tales of China,” Vol. 1, available on Amazon.

Chinese Student Sentenced for Photographing US Military Base, Raising Questions About His Military Ties

Freshmen practice fighting skills during a military training at a university in Gaochun County in coastal China’s Jiangsu Province, on Sept. 25, 2008. (China Photos/Getty Images)

BY FRANK FANG, EPOCH TIMES

February 7, 2019 Updated: February 7, 2019

A Chinese exchange student who was recently sentenced for illegally photographing a U.S. naval facility in Florida hailed from a Chinese university with deep ties to China’s military.

Zhao Qianli, 21, a Chinese national from Shanxi Province, was sentenced to a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to photographing defense installations at the U.S. Naval Air Station Key West, according to a Feb. 5 press release by the U.S. Department of Justice. He also must complete a year of supervised release.

Zhao was arrested on Sept. 26, 2018, after trespassing at the Navy base and using his cellphone and a digital camera to take pictures. He was found to have overstayed his visa after studying at a summer exchange program.

The program had ended in September, according to a Feb. 5 article by the Miami Herald; the U.S. school where Zhao was studying wasn’t disclosed.

After serving his sentence, Zhao will be deported. If he’s allowed to reenter the United States by officials, he must report to a U.S. probation office within 72 hours of arriving.

The judge handed Zhao the statutory maximum term of one year, higher than the sentencing guidelines of zero to six months for his offense. The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami had submitted a memorandum requesting that Zhao be given a nine-month sentence, due to his atypical behaviors and to reflect the seriousness of the offense.

Zhao had claimed that he was just a tourist who got lost while visiting the area. But according to court documents, none of the photos and videos found on his cell phone and digital cameras were of any tourist attraction sites in Key West. There were only photos of the Navy base and an antenna field on the base.

Witnesses said they saw Zhao walk directly toward the restricted area where the antenna field was located and took photos—despite a sign clearly indicating the area was restricted.

Zhao wasn’t forthcoming about many details when questioned by U.S. officials. Regarding his education background in China, Zhao stated that he was in the fourth year of his music undergraduate study at the North University of China. Yet, his visa application showed that he began his studies there in 2017, according to court documents.

During questioning, Zhao admitted to having received military training as a university student in China—a fact he failed to disclose on his visa application.

U.S. officials also found photos on his phone of uniformed individuals, in what appears to be military training in China, as well as “documentation of a university engineering course curriculum.” When questioned, Zhao said he had no recollection of how those photos and documents got onto his phone.

Officials also confronted him with a police blouse and a belt buckle indicating it belonged to a Chinese government ministry; both were recovered at the Miami Beach hotel where he was staying.

Zhao claimed the items were given to him by his father so he could “have nice clothes” to wear while in the United States.

Chinese Military Ties

The North University of China, which Zhao attended, has deep ties to China’s military, going back more than 50 years to the founding of the Chinese regime.

According to the university’s official website, the school was founded by the Eighth Route Army, a division under the command of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The school was later renamed Taiyuan Institute of Machinery in 1958.

In 1963, the school was transferred to the administration of the National Defense, Technology, and Industry Committee, a central government agency. It became one of eight colleges considered key to China’s defense industry at the time.

Since 2011, the Shanxi provincial government and China’s State Administration for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) have had joint administration over the school. The latter is a central government agency tasked with drafting guidelines and policies that strengthen China’s military forces with more advanced equipment.

In June 2015, North University made headlines in Chinese media when the school hosted a ceremony to transfer its research results to the Chinese military: a new 125mm multi-purpose cannon with anti-aircraft and anti-tank capabilities. The school headed development of the new cannon, with support from more than 10 other Chinese defense technology research centers, according to the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper People’s Daily.

The school continues to enjoy close ties to the military. In October 2018, the school’s president, Shen Xingquan, signed agreements with China’s state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry (CASIC)—known for developing China’s missiles—to enhance the transfer of technological development to the military from academia, according to the school website.

The school also announced in December last year that two professors were awarded a total of 2.48 billion yuan (about $367 million) in funding by SASTIND for defense-technology related projects.

Beijing’s National Policies

North University also participates in Beijing’s current national development and recruitment policies, ”Made in China 2025” and the “Thousand Talents Plan.”

On Jan. 13, 2019, Shen, while giving a speech at the school about the establishment of a provincial association for scientists and entrepreneurs to foster artificial intelligence-enhanced manufacturing, said that it’s vital for the association to help implement the “Made in China 2025” policy.

He said he envisioned the association taking the lead in improving the time it takes to turn patented technologies into actual products, so that the province “would not lag in the progress of ‘Made in China 2025.’” According to the school’s website, Shen was appointed to be the association’s deputy chairman.

The “Made in China 2025” industrial policy was announced in 2015, with goals for China to achieve self-sufficiency in 10 tech-manufacturing sectors by 2025, including advanced information technology, robotics, and automated machine tools.

The plan, however, has been criticized by the U.S. administration for undermining fair competition in the global market, and abetting the theft of technology and trade secrets.

In December 2008, Beijing rolled out the “Thousand Talents Plan,” a state recruitment program to attract primarily Chinese science and technology talents who studied or lived abroad to work in China. Since then, the plan has recruited more than 7,000 people for employment at a university, research institute, or state-owned enterprise, according to the program’s website.

According to the official website of China’s Ministry of National Defense, two staff members were recruited under the plan to North University by July 2011.

In an April 2015 article, China’s state-run Shanxi News Net reported that Wang Wanjun, a professor at North University, was recruited by the talent program from Louisiana State University. Upon Wang’s return to China, North University established a lithography center, as well as a lithography company—after successfully obtaining 10 million yuan (about $1.48 million) in funding. Lithography is an important manufacturing step in the production of semiconductor chips.

In the Shanxi News article, Wang said the reason he decided to return to China was because the school provided him with the platform “to serve his country and start a business.”

According to Chinese news portal Baidu, Wang was recruited by the talent program in 2010.

The “Thousand Talents Plan” has since been flagged by U.S. officials as a means to transfer U.S. technology and intellectual properties to China.

Shen Yun Principal Dancer Kaidi Wu’s Ethereal Grace

Dancer Kaidi Wu is a lady of few words. She expresses herself through dance, a language she makes so vivid and beautiful that it moves audiences to tears. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

BY IRENE LUO, EPOCH TIMES

January 28, 2019 Updated: January 28, 2019

In a bustling restaurant of excited chatter and shouting toddlers, Kaidi Wu is the opposite of her surroundings. Her voice is like a spring breeze—gentle and slow, serene and unhurried. She seems to emerge from a different world, a realm of tranquility and grace.

Kaidi first saw Shen Yun Performing Arts after she had immigrated from China to Toronto, Canada. Like many in the audience, she thought to herself, “Oh, how I wish I could become one of them!”

Now, Kaidi is a principal dancer with the performing arts company that inspired her dream, and she has come to embody the ethereal beauty that had mesmerized her when she first saw Shen Yun.

as Chang’e, the goddess of the moon, in New Tang Dynasty Television’s 2016 International Classical Chinese Dance Competition. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

Inner Beauty

Dressed in a flowing white gown adorned with yellow and blue, Kaidi flurries a pink silk cloth and floats across the stage as if carried by a cloud in New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television’s 2012 International Classical Chinese Dance Competition. There’s a twinkle in her eyes, a smile on her lips. Immersed in Kaidi’s self-choreographed piece, audiences can almost see the rippling waters in a turquoise lake, feel the gentle breeze of a balmy morning, and hear the chirping swallows in a secluded valley.

How does a dancer capture such beauty, we wonder. “This kind of beauty should be the natural reflection of your inner self,” Kaidi tells us. It’s not about outward appearances, but instead about the channeling of inner virtues. Thus, classical Chinese dance cannot be separated from the cultivation of a kind and virtuous character.
Kaidi Wu performs as Ban Zhao, the first known female Chinese historian, in New Tang Dynasty Television’s 2014 International Classical Chinese Dance Competition. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

This past September, in NTD Television’s recent competition, Kaidi chose to perform the role of Wang Baochuan. From an aristocratic family, Wang Baochuan had fallen in love with the commoner Xue Rengui because he was a kind man of excellent character. After they married, he rose up the ranks to become a Tang Dynasty general and was away on the battlefield for many years.

Living alone in a crude cave dwelling, Wang Baochuan “had to overcome all kinds of hardships. But she was not fearful, and she simply persisted in waiting,” Kaidi says. Eighteen years later, she was finally rewarded when she reunited with her beloved husband, who had returned triumphantly from the battlefield. Kaidi says that in Wang Baochuan, she saw loyalty, perseverance, and selflessness—all characteristics she admires.

As part of Shen Yun Performing Arts, Kaidi is not only reviving traditional Chinese dance but also showcasing the values of the ancients. Back then, the paragon of a Chinese woman epitomized refinement, grace, and virtue, things swept under by the tides of modernity.


Kaidi Wu performs in the technical portion of New Tang Dynasty Television’s 2016 International Classical Chinese Dance Competition. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

A Tranquil Mind

When speaking about the challenges of learning classical Chinese dance, Kaidi reveals that her biggest challenge was mental, not physical. A teacher once told her that she was not steady enough as a dancer, as if holding her breath on the surface. She was like a leaf that drifted about at the whims of the breeze. “I easily became nervous,” Kaidi says.

Over time, she realized the source of the problem. “I worried about how others would view me. If I thought about myself, I would become more nervous.” She thus had to learn to calm her mind and dispel the insecurities that distracted her.

For Kaidi, handkerchief dances have always been especially challenging. One of the most impressive parts of the dance is when a dancer twirls her handkerchief into the air, performs a front aerial, and then successfully catches the handkerchief before it falls to the ground. As she worried about potentially failing to catch the handkerchief, she would do poorly. “When we perform, we shouldn’t think about ourselves. Just think about what you should do with a steady, unwavering heart,” Kaidi says.

Beginning in 2012, Kaidi was given lead roles in dances in Shen Yun’s world tours. Her new roles brought on more responsibility, and it became more important for her to maintain a steady mindset. “You can’t stand out by yourself,” Kaidi says. Instead, she strives to assimilate to the larger body, to perfect the performance as a whole.

“We are all doing the same thing. One person’s strength cannot match what the group has as a whole,” Kaidi says. Over time, she learned to focus less on herself and to adapt to those around her, putting their needs above her own. Only then could her performances truly move audiences.

Fulfilling Her Purpose

As a dancer, Kaidi evokes not only the grace of celestial fairies and imperial palace maidens but also the dignity of modern-day heroes. In Shen Yun’s 2017 world tour, in the piece titled “A Child’s Choice,” she played an orphaned girl who later discovers the truth behind her parents’ deaths. As practitioners of the Chinese spiritual discipline Falun Dafa, they had been brutally killed by the Chinese communist regime for their faith.

The dance’s storyline draws from real events occurring in China. The spiritual practice of Falun Dafa once had an estimated 100 million adherents in China. But in 1999, the Chinese Communist Party ordered a nationwide persecution, beginning 19 years of brutality and inhumanity that continue to this day.

Instead of succumbing to the pressure of the persecution, Kaidi’s character continues her parents’ legacy, standing up for what is right. At the end of the piece, she resolutely unfurls a banner with the Chinese characters for truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance—the central tenets of Falun Dafa. Her determination and fearlessness move audiences to tears.

Growing up in a family of Falun Dafa practitioners, Kaidi had personally experienced the far-reaching claws of the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution. When she was living in China with her grandparents (her parents had immigrated to Canada first), their home was raided by police because they practiced Falun Dafa. At elementary school, Kaidi was discriminated against, forcibly held back one year, and sometimes bullied by her classmates, who once hit her with a water bottle. At the time, young Kaidi was simply bewildered. It wasn’t until she was about to leave China that she came to realize she had been treated unfairly because of her family’s faith.

Kaidi speaks of these past circumstances lightly, and she laughs as she recalls how clueless she was back then. Although her own suffering was relatively minor, she feels for her fellow Falun Dafa practitioners in China who have lost their freedoms, their careers, and even their lives as a result of the persecution. She thus cherishes opportunities to portray these stories on stage. “Many people say they cannot believe this is happening in China. Many people also say they were moved to tears,” Kaidi says. At these moments, she feels in her heart, “We didn’t do this for nothing. Everything we do is worth it.”


Kaidi pulls off challenging dance techniques with poise and confidence, the hallmarks of a seasoned performer. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

As our interview concluded, we set off for a photo shoot in a nearby park. At our last stop on the sandy beach of a lake, we asked Kaidi to perform a few dance poses and leaps. She found a nearby wooden pole to lean on as she stretched, and she pressed on it two or three times to check its sturdiness. In the next second, she had kicked her leg effortlessly behind her head to form a straight line pointing to the heavens.

As she took off her sneakers for the photo shoot, we saw that her toes and heels were covered in scars, the battle wounds of a professional dancer. But she seemed not to notice the existence of these wounds. Wearing an unadorned black shirt, she leapt into the air with the brilliant colors of sunset as her backdrop, blossoming in time that seemed to stop. Her silhouette was like an imprint of her many years on stage, a decade of stirring splendor. Through it all, we see the warm smile on her face, gentle and sincere, accompanied by the radiant hues of twilight.

Published with permission from Elite Lifestyle Magazine.

Celebrating Chinese New Year 2019: The Year of the Pig

BY LILY CHOO, EPOCH TIMES

January 29, 2019 Updated: January 30, 2019

The Chinese New Year is celebrated on Feb. 5, marking the beginning of the year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac.

It is a time for reflection, for resolutions, and new hope in the year to come. Some believe the year of the Pig will bring wealth and prosperity.

According to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, the first day of the Chinese lunar year may fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February.

The Chinese lunar calendar incorporates both the lunar cycle and the position of the sun. According to legend, the calendar dates back to 2600 B.C., when the mythical Yellow Emperor started the first cycle of the Chinese zodiac and named an animal to represent each year in the 12-year cycle.

The 12 animal signs are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

A pig lantern displayed at the Yu Yuan Garden in Shanghai, China to mark the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Pig, which starts on February 5. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The Sign of the Pig

The Pig is the twelfth sign in the Chinese zodiac. If you were born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019 your Chinese zodiac sign is likely the pig. It is important, though, to consider the day of your birth in January or February in regard to the first day of the Chinese New Year.

Pig is perhaps the most complex symbol, since it has both positive and negative elements. The positive elements are wealth (symbolized by the piggy bank), good fortune, friendship, patience, popularity and peace.

Pigs are associated with stupidity in both Eastern and Western cultures. In English, the word “Pigheaded” means stupid or stubborn. In Chinese, the word “pig head” is used when scolding at someone who is stupid. The Pig represents negative personality traits such as being stubborn, careless, absent-minded, disorganized and mischievous.

New Year Wishes: A Year to Expect Wealth

The Chinese people believe the year of the Pig will bring wealth and prosperity. Besides having a stable income, they hope to make more money, and some believe it is an auspicious time to make new financial investments.

The year of the Pig is expected to bring joy, friendship and love for all the zodiac signs as the Pig attracts success in all the spheres of life.

Happy Chinese New Year! (過年好! guò nián hǎo)

The Golden Pig brings you good fortune! (金豬報福! Jīn zhū bào fú)

Lucky and joyful year of the Pig! (福豬頌春! Fú zhū sòng chūn)

Peace and good health in the year of the Pig! (豬年安康! zhū nián ān kāng)

The year of the Pig arrives and good fortune comes! (豬年到 好運到! zhū nián dào, hǎo yùn dào)

Year of the Pig brings luck and joy. (Catherine Chang/The Epoch Times)

New Year Traditions

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese festivals. The celebration usually lasts 15 days, from New Year’s Day to the Lantern Festival, which is the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

There are many traditions and customs associated with the Chinese New Year. Families thoroughly clean their homes in order to sweep away any ill fortune and to make way for good luck. Windows and doors are decorated with delicate red paper cutouts and poetic couplets—pairs of corresponding lines of poetry that express people’s joy and hope for the New Year.

Fireworks, firecrackers, red packages, the lion dance, the dragon dance, and lanterns with riddles are other common customs and traditions observed during the Chinese New Year period.


Friends dine on a feast to celebrate Chinese New Year during a community activity in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China on Jan. 14, 2006. (China Photos/Getty Images)

Many families gather for a big family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve, and the Chinese people also visit their relatives as part of the New Year celebration.

Children learn traditional paper cutting with festive red paper, the Year of the Pig, in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, China on Jan. 30, 2019. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Lion dancers perform at a Chinese New Year celebration in a small community in upstate New York, U.S. on Jan. 31, 2016. (Larry Dye/The Epoch Times)

Celebration with Couplet Verses

Couplet Verses or Chinese New Year Couplets, Chūn Lián (春聯) in Chinese, are an important part of the New Year celebration. Also known as antithetical couplet, it is often in traditional style and reflects hope, peace and prosperity for the year to come.

Chinese couplets are usually a pair of successive lines of verse, especially a pair that rhyme, and the number of characters in each line is the same. The structure is very strict and well-defined.

The first line is the “head” and the second line is the “tail.” In a couplet, a balance must be found between head and tail, between each character in one and the usually contrasting character in the same position in the other, and in tone, rhyme, and meaning.

A horizontal streamer (橫披, hénɡ pī), which normally has four characters, is added above the entrance and between the two vertical streamers to indicate the theme of the couplets.

A woman walking past a wall decorated with new year couplets at a traditional market on Di Hua street to mark the coming Lunar New Year—the Year of the Pig—in Taipei on Jan. 25, 2019. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368–1644), Zhu Yuangzhang, issued an order before the New Year’s Eve requiring every householder to write couplets on red paper and post them on entry door frames to welcome the New Year.

In the morning of the New Year, the emperor dressed himself in plain clothes and went door-to-door reading the couplets. Whenever he saw well-written scrolls, he was very happy and praised the writers’ talent.

With the emperor’s advocacy, the tradition of writing New Year couplets became a custom that has been continued to the present day.

Couplet Verses for the Year of the Pig:

The Pig is the most valued among the six farm animals [pig, cow, sheep, chicken, horse and dog] (六畜豬為首 liù chù zhū wéi shǒu)

Spring takes the lead among the four seasons (一年春佔先 yī nián chūn zhàn xiān)

The Dog keeps guard for a peaceful 2018 (狗守太平歲 gǒu shǒu tài píng suì)

The Pig ushers in a prosperous 2019 (牽富裕年 zhū qiān fù yù nián)

Although the Pig is the last (Chinese) zodiac sign (雖屬生肖後 suī shǔ sheng xiào hòu)

The Pig is ranked first among the six farm animals [pig, cow, sheep, chicken, horse and dog] (卻居六畜先(què jū liù chù xiān)

This Doctor Says 2 Little-Known Brain Chemicals Cause Anxiety, and Big Pharma Doesn’t Like It

Ronald Hoffman, MD, has been practicing for over 30 years in New York City and is an internationally recognized expert in integrative medicine.

January 20, 2019

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“When I was prescribing anti-anxiety medication, a few of my patients seemed to benefit, but most didn’t. I never questioned the effectiveness of the drugs, but when I took a peek behind the curtain, I realized I was wrong,” says Ronald Hoffman, MD, who has been practicing for over 30 years in New York City and is an internationally recognized expert in integrative medicine. He is one member of a new group of doctors questioning how effective anxiety medications actually are.

More anxiety medications are being prescribed than ever before, and yet, the anxiety epidemic has only gotten worse. Something didn’t feel right to Dr. Hoffman. That’s why he decided to investigate the clinical research published by major pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Hoffman’s fears were confirmed when a recent body of research published in the PLoS Medicine journal called into question the efficacy of these drugs and their associated side effects. The results were startling. Only 44% of patients reported any improvement. Even more disturbing, in a 2008 study published by the American Medical Association, researchers concluded that anxiety left untreated can impair key areas of the brain and cause the very symptoms patients are trying to avoid

The difference in brain activity is shown for a subject that is calm (left) and a subject that is stressed (right).

This data led him to break with traditional thinking in Western medicine and a decision to explore the possibility of an alternative natural solution. His efforts produced something more effective than he would have ever imagined.

Dr. Hoffman felt particularly empathetic toward his patients struggling with anxiety who expressed intense feelings of hopelessness and negative self talk, trapping them in a vicious cycle. He explains, “A single anxious thought can lead to intense physical symptoms. This then leads to avoidance behavior, which makes the patient feel even worse and results in even more negative thought patterns.”

According to Dr. Hoffman, “The ineffectiveness of these drugs is contributing to the growing mental health problem we are currently facing. These people badly need treatment, but they are not getting it because these drugs don’t work. Anxiety left untreated can have far-reaching consequences to your mental health beyond just your mood. It can also adversely impact your memory, attention, and focus.”

Dr. Hoffman agrees with the prevailing medical opinion that GABA and serotonin are the primary neurotransmitters responsible for regulating levels of anxiety. However, when he investigated the mechanism of action for the three primary anti-anxiety medication classes (SSRIs, SNRIs, and benzodiazepines), he realized that each class of medication was only addressing one half of the equation.

He asserts that prescription medications create an imbalance between GABA and serotonin, producing an overabundance of one neurotransmitter while neglecting the other. By overmedicating one half of the problem, patients typically experience brief initial symptom relief. However, symptoms typically worsen over time, and harmful side effects can develop, including dependency.

He believes there is a stark difference between chemical alteration and a body’s natural production of GABA and serotonin. When your body generates GABA and serotonin, it is a comprehensive, balanced approach to both neurotransmitters. To achieve this natural balance and break the cycle of negative behavior, Dr. Hoffman enlisted the help of a group of New England researchers to determine the 5 most potent herbs to promote balanced levels of GABA and serotonin.

Over the last 18 months, these researchers have been perfecting his formula in a GMP certified facility in NY. They named the formulation RediCalm and chose 5 natural ingredients that work together to aid your body’s natural production of GABA and serotonin.* 5-HTP, L-Theanine, Ashwagandha, Passion Flower, and Lemon Balm have been clinically proven to boost GABA and serotonin levels in the human body.

The results of RediCalm’s placebo-controlled clinical study.

Early feedback was overwhelmingly positive from focus groups and a small scale proof-of-concept study. However, Dr. Hoffman insisted on a full-scale placebo-controlled trial to prove RediCalm’s effectiveness based on two essential variables: immediate relief and long-term effectiveness. The results significantly exceeded his expectations.

More than 2 out of 3 study participants felt immediate relief from anxiety within 30 minutes. In addition, over 95% felt relief within 30 days. And none of the participants reported any negative side effects. The results were statistically significant when compared with placebo.

At this point, Dr. Hoffman decided to partner with an American manufacturer and release the product to the public. RediCalm is vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free, and is made in a GMP-certified facility in New York to ensure the highest standards of safety.

30 day trials are temporarily available online until January 24th. Click the link below to visit the company website and decide if RediCalm is right for you.