If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Monday, February 9, 2015

Thousand Hand Bodhisattva


Guan Yin

Thousand Hand Bodhisattva 

Thousand Hand Bodhisattva (Guan Yin) (千手观音)

This is Zhang Jigang's most famous and influential production. The piece features 21 hearing impaired dancers who form remarkable arm and hand positions by standing behind each other in a perfect column. Breathtaking images are created as the dancers produce perfectly timed and choreographed movements. 

The show quickly became a national treasure and overwhelming domestic success. It was first performed internationally at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C. in front of former President of the United States Bill Clinton, senior White House staff and spectators. 
It generated rave reviews and was showcased shortly thereafter around the world in countries including Australia, Japan, North Korea, Egypt, Turkey and Italy. 

In 2004 it was performed at the Closing Ceremonies for the 2004 SummerParalympics in Athens, Greece (see it here) and Miss World 2004 pageant held in Sanya, China. The primary filmed version was captured in 2005 at the Spring Festival in China on CCTV.

"The sun rises, not from the east, nor the west, but from the heart…With kindness and love in your heart, you can extend a thousand hands to help others… [And] a thousand hands will also be extended to help you."

So goes the lyrics during celebrated choreographer Zhang Jigang's latest dance piece entitled Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva, a grandiose celebration of the Buddhist deity's noble spirit of harmony, benevolence and self-sacrificing love.

View The bewitching performance of Thousand-hand Bodhisattva dance performed at the 2005 CCTV Spring Festival Gala.....

A story of sacrifice

In the story, the ancient country of Dai is attacked by a plague and the king himself falls ill. With his life at stake, the youngest of his three daughters sets out on an arduous journey for the magical lotus flower which can save his life. The eldest meanwhile, who covets the throne, sends a servant, Tongzi, to rob the princess of the flower and prevent the king from surviving.

After suffering countless hardships, the princess finally finds the flower; but to save her people, she must become the Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva and continue to suffer hardship while helping others.

"The message the production wants to convey is harmony," Zhang, whose latest works include music and dance epic Road to Revive and new epic Peking Opera Red Cliff, said.

"What the audience will see on stage doesn't need any explanation because it is what the Bodhisattva thinks about, and her state of mind. She can talk to hundreds of birds and live with various plants. It is such a harmonious scene.

"The Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva is extraordinary. She is not you, nor me, nor him. But she is also common… she could be you, me and him," he added.

In addition to audiences appreciating its grandeur and splendid staging, Zhang said he also wishes to let them see the "purity of the earth" through his staging.    

Guan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion, revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy. Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. Guan means to observe, watch, or monitor; Shi means the world; Yin means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a compassionate being who watches for, and responds to, the people in the world who cry out for help.

The bewitching performance of Thousand-hand Bodhisattva dance performed at the 2005 CCTV Spring Festival Gala by 21 hearing impaired girls and boys with the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe (CDPPAT) in Beijing caused a nationwide sensation. The movements were of breathtaking precision. The marvelous choreography, lavish costumes and perfect lighting were a thrilling experience. The audience never stopped wondering at the extraordinary accuracy of the 21 dancers' "thousand hands" gesticulating as if they belonged to one body. The dance was led by Tai lihua and choreographed and directed by Zhang Jigang. On September 28, 2004 at the Closing Ceremony of the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games the eight-minute debut of Thousand-hand Bodhisattva as a "theme song" wonderfully shocked the whole world.

Read more about China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe (CDPPAT)


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