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photo 2I attended the joint performances of students from the High School affiliated with the Renmin University (Ren Da Fu Zhong in Chinese, RDFZ) from Beijing and Chicago Public Schools. They performed at the auditorium of the Walter Payton College Prep High School (WPCPHS) on Wednesday. I was blown away by the high-level skills demonstrated by RDFZ students, aged 11 to 17.

I interviewed Mr. Shen Xianzhang, Deputy Principal and co-leader of the 66-member performing troupe. I must say I was intrigued and impressed.

cicShen said the troupe will tour several major cities in the U.S. and will give 14 performances. The program staged at WPCPHS was their “short” list due to time limits.

Shen advised that RDFZ has a number of clubs, such as dance, martial arts, acrobatics, choir, etc., which attract approximately 600 students. The troupe on this tour is consisted of merely 10% of the students participating in such extra curriculum activities.

I feel these students’ performance can be praised as semi-professional.

Having been trained as a ping pong player in grade school, I can tell how much time and work they must have put into their select area of activity in order to reach this level.

Shen proudly mentioned a number of “first prizes” students at RDFZ have won over the years, and how many countries they had toured to give performances.

I know RDFZ is one of the top schools in China. It has a total of 5,000 students, a large pool to select talents, not to mention that those who are able to get into the school have proved themselves outstanding to start with.

photo 1Still, talents only would not have delivered such great skills in dancing, martial arts, and acrobatics.

Dedication, hard work, and consistent practices did. And discipline. It also means that they are not just book smart or buried in the preparation for college entrance examinations.

Over the years, as the generation of the one-child policy grow up, I have heard, and lamented myself, the little “emperors and empresses” who are self-centered and ill-prepared to deal with the challenges and hardships in life.

Here they are, a group of representatives of their generation. They have led me to look at them, and their peers, from a different perspective and with delight, hope, and expectations.

photo 1 copy 2I asked Shen how he felt about the “amateur” performances given by students from CPS.

“I’m glad and moved to see American students dance traditional Chinese folk dances and sing Chinese songs,” he said without hesitation.

His words and sincerity touched me.

I noticed the disparity in the level and skills of the CPS students and neglected to realize the significance of their dancing Chinese folk dances and singing Chinese songs in the celebration of the Chinese New Year in Chicago, the heartland of the United States.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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