Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Resilience in Motion: How Deru’s Journey With Shen Yun Gave Her Life New Meaning

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 27, 2024
Deru (right) joined Shen Yun Performing Arts in 2013 after fleeing China with her mother for practicing the spiritual discipline of Falun Dafa. "Relatives and friends all practiced Falun Dafa. Everyone was happy and peaceful," she recalled in an interview with her mother Lin Qian (left) for "The Stories of Life," on Gan Jing World. (Image: Screenshot via Gan Jing World)

In the world of classical Chinese dance, few stories are as poignant and inspiring as that of Deru — a young performer with Shen Yun who’s father was persecuted to death for his faith in Falun Gong. Behind her graceful and agile movements on stage lies a heart-wrenching tale of persecution, resilience, and the unyielding pursuit of truth and justice.

Founded in 2006, Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. Based in New York, the company 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 debuts a brand new production each year and currently has eight-equally sized troupes that tour and perform around the world simultaneously.

Deru (right) joined Shen Yun Performing Arts in 2013. “Relatives and friends all practiced Falun Dafa. Everyone was happy and peaceful,” she recalled in an interview with her mother Lin Qian (left) for “The Stories of Life,” on Gan Jing World. (Image: Screenshot via Gan Jing World)

While Deru’s early life was filled with joy and cherished memories, once her family took up the practice of Falun Dafa, things quickly started to spiral. Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline from ancient China rooted in the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. 

“Relatives and friends all practiced Falun Dafa. Everyone was happy and peaceful,” recalled Deru during an interview with “The Stories of Life” on Gan Jing World.

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A stolen childhood

Deru’s childhood was shattered in 1999 when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a brutal campaign to eradicate the faith after fearing that its rapid rise in popularity would be a threat to its authoritarian regime. Since then, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have died and undergone all kinds of abuse at the hands of Chinese authorities, including imprisonment, torture, forced labor, and forced organ harvesting

Falun Gong practitioners take part in an annual parade across central Manhattan to celebrate World Falun Dafa Day, which is May 13. The 2023 parade, marking the 31st year since the Chinese spiritual practice’s founding in 1992, took place on Friday, May 12. (Image: Mark Zou/The Epoch Times)

During this time, Deru’s father — a steadfast adherent of Falun Dafa — became a target of the CCP’s persecution. In 2002, he was persecuted to death in Guangzhou after refusing to renounce his faith in Falun Gong. 

The loss of her father was a devastating blow to young Deru and her family. To escape further persecution, they fled China — first to Thailand and then to the U.S. “Before that, both of my parents had high-paying jobs in China. We were pretty well off. We wouldn’t think of coming to America, but the persecution of Falun Gong changed everything,” said Deru.

A new beginning

Despite the hardship of having to flee their home country, Deru’s mother, Lin Qian, played a key role in their journey by always encouraging her daughter to remain strong and steadfast. “I’m very proud of my mom,” said Deru, “She supports me so much.”

By 2013, Deru had found a new way to tell the world about the persecution of Falun Gong after joining Shen Yun. “When I’m performing on stage, usually I just stay calm and focused, but behind all of this, there’s a mission. Basically, we want to tell the audience members that truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance are good [principles],” explained Deru.

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)

Each year, Shen Yun includes a contemporary piece in their performances that highlights the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. This inclusion is a powerful reminder to audiences worldwide of the brutal reality faced by those who practice Falun Dafa. “We just want to tell the audience members that this is real and it’s happening in China right now still, and we want to stop it,” said Deru.

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But Deru’s personal connection to Shen Yun extends beyond the stage. “For myself personally, Shen Yun touched me on a personal level because I’m basically a victim of this whole entire persecution because I lost my father when I was four,” she said. Despite enduring such sorrow, her father’s courage and dedication to Falun Dafa continue to inspire her. “I think my dad’s courage changed my life,” she said, adding, “It instilled in me a sense of duty.” 

Shen Yun dancers rehearse a classical Chinese dance routine at their facility in Orange County, N.Y., in this file photo. (Image: Courtesy of Shen Yun)

The rigorous training and profound philosophy of classical Chinese dance have deeply impacted Deru. “The more I learn about classical Chinese dance, the more I realize that it’s very, very profound. Because Chinese classical dance is part of ancient Chinese culture, and I realized that it’s basically intertwined with one’s morality,” she said. To excel in this art form, one must cultivate inner virtue, a principle that aligns perfectly with Falun Dafa’s teachings.

Deru’s journey with Shen Yun has not only allowed her to grow as a dancer but also as a person. “Shen Yun taught me how to be a more grateful person, and I want to thank Master and thank Shen Yun for bringing me up to become a more righteous person,” she said.

For tickets, availability, and other FAQs, visit Shen Yun’s official website here.