Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Fadu’s Journey: How a Family Turned Tragedy Into Hope By Harnessing the Power of Art

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: June 17, 2024
Mother and daughter, Dai Zhizhen and her young daughter, Fadu. (Image: via Janine Rankin)

In the late 1990s, many families faced unimaginable hardships as China entered a period of intense political and social upheaval. Among them was a young family whose lives were irrevocably altered by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) brutal crackdown of the Falun Gong spiritual practice. This is the poignant story of Fadu and her mother, whose lives were shattered by the loss of Fadu’s father, Chen Changyong.

Fadu’s story is one of resilience, hope, and the transformative power of art. Born in 2000, she entered the world just as her father embarked on a courageous act to uphold his faith. As a Falun Gong adherent, Chen traveled to Tiananmen Square in the face of growing persecution by the CCP.

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a spiritual practice rooted in ancient Chinese tradition that combines meditation exercises with a moral philosophy based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance (真善忍). After becoming hugely popular in China in the 1990s, with millions of people — including high-ranking government officials taking up the discipline — the communist authorities launched a brutal persecution campaign to eradicate the practice in July 1999.

Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners meditate through body movements to mark the 10th anniversary of the practice being outlawed in China on July 17, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Image: TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Since then, thousands have been detained, tortured, and killed for their beliefs. According to Minghui, a U.S.-based website that documents the persecution of Falun Gong, over 4,000 practitioners have died as a result of torture and abuse at the hands of Chinese authorities.

But based on first-hand accounts from those living under perpetual harassment by the Party’s various security organizations, Falun Gong adherents suspect the real number of deaths to be in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions.

RELATED: ‘The CCP Does Not Represent China’: Falun Gong Practitioners Commemorate 25th Anniversary of Appeal in Beijing

Chen, tragically, became one of them. Detained in January 2001, just three months after Fadu was born, he vanished into the CCP’s system, never to be seen again. The news of his death, which was delivered three weeks after the fact, shattered Fadu’s family. Her mother, Dai Zhizhen, was left to raise a newborn all by herself — and the grief alone turned her hair white overnight. Fadu was only a year old at the time of her father’s death.

Fadu’s father, Chen Changyong (L), died at the age of 34 after enduring torture and abuse at the hands of Chinese authorities for his faith in Falun Gong. Fadu (center) was only one year old at the time of his death in 2001. Her mother Dai Zhizhen (R) suffered such grief after receiving news of her husband’s death that her hair turned white overnight. (Image: Screenshot/The Stories of Life)

But Fadu and her mother’s tragic experience are far from unique. Countless children in China have lost parents or been separated from them due to this ongoing persecution that has continued unabated for over two decades. 

A name steeped in hope

Even before Fadu’s birth, her life was touched by Falun Dafa. While her mother was pregnant, Chen discussed baby names with his wife, proposing “Fadu,” which translates to “Dafa saves.” The name held a powerful hope and message, and embodied the couple’s belief that the practice would safeguard their child.

Despite the darkness she’s endured in her young life, hope flickered for Fadu when she joined Shen Yun Performing Arts. Founded in 2006, Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. The company, which is based in New York, aims to revive 5,000 years of traditional culture and values through immersive performances to showcase China’s authentic heritage prior to the ravages of communism. 

shen yun in korea in 2023
Shen Yun Performing Arts World Company’s curtain call at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 19, 2023. (Image: Kim Guk-hwan/The Epoch Times)

Made up of a large ensemble of elite artists comprising more than 500 dancers, musicians, and vocalists, Shen Yun currently has eight equally-sized companies that tour and perform across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania simultaneously. The company puts on a brand new production each year

Many of Shen Yun’s performers themselves also share similar stories of persecution — either by experiencing it themselves or having family members targeted for their faith. This ongoing human rights crisis is a central message that the performing arts troupe strives to bring to light.

RELATED: ‘It moved my spirit’: See Why Theatergoers Are Enchanted With Shen Yun

Newfound purpose

Shen Yun’s performances aim not only to entertain, but also educate audiences on important social and political issues taking place in China today. The performances aim to raise awareness on human rights’ issues to provide a unique perspective on the human spirit and the importance of not taking certain freedoms for granted. For Fadu, Shen Yun became more than just an artistic outlet; it became a transformative experience.

Before joining Shen Yun, Fadu admits she was a different person. The absence of her father instilled a sense of “self-centeredness,” a kind of protective shell that pushed others away. But Shen Yun’s emphasis on teamwork, compassion, and putting others first, helped Fadu shed that shell. 

Fadu (right) was only one year old at the time of her father Chen Changyong’s death in 2001. Her mother Dai Zhizhen (left) suffered such grief after receiving news of her husband’s death that her hair turned white overnight. (Image: Screenshot/The Stories of Life)

“The reason I wanted to join Shen Yun was because of my family story,” said Fadu. Through rigorous training and the core values embedded in Shen Yun’s teachings, Fadu learned the importance of collaboration, hard work, and compassion. She grasped the concept that true accomplishment stems not from individual prowess but from collective effort and supporting those around her.

“Before I joined Shen Yun, I was a very different person,” she said during an interview with “The Stories of Life,” a channel on the Gan Jing World social media platform. “I never considered others’ feelings and I’d always put myself first.” But after joining the performing arts troupe, Fadu recalls how she “learned how to put others first, and how to be a kinder person.”

Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music performance, bringing to life 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture and heritage to audiences across the globe in a brand new production each year. (Image: Shen Yun Performing Arts)

A mother’s plea

Fadu’s mother, Dai Zhizhen, touched upon the CCP’s reach beyond China’s borders. The persecution, she reveals, extends to Shen Yun’s performers even while on U.S. soil — a chilling reminder that the CCP’s repression extends far and wide. In recent years, the company has faced all kinds of unhinged harassment and intimidation tactics, including slashed tires on tour buses and threats of violence.

MORE ON THIS: Communist China Ramps Up Efforts to Intimidate Shen Yun With Sabotage, Unhinged Threats of Violence

Dai’s plea is a simple, yet powerful one: For a world with a “kind heart” to stand together and stop the persecution. Every mother, she believes, longs for their children to embody the values that Shen Yun embodies: kindness, compassion, and a spirit of unity. “If everyone has a kind heart, please help us,” said Dai during the interview. “Together, we can stop this persecution.”

She adds, “As a mother, I want every daughter and son to have the freedom to believe and express themselves. This persecution extends from China to around the world. They attack Shen Yun, trying to silence our message.”

Fadu and her mother’s stories serve as testaments to the enduring human spirit. Through Shen Yun, this remarkable young lady not only found solace and purpose, but also a platform to share her story and raise awareness about the injustices faced by Falun Gong practitioners, and other prisoners of conscience in China.