Super Kids of China

A troupe of talented Chinese youths make a rare appearance outside China, here on Aug. 27

Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - August 18, 2010
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
E-mail this story | Print this page | Archive | RSS

Young ballerinas in blossom

In these times of fast-paced transportation to every nook on the globe - physically via jet, or virtually via Internet - there’s yet another way to take a journey in person, but without the jet lag and gaping hole in your bank account. Offering a cultural portal to China, 45 youngsters, or should we say wunderkinds, known as The Shanghai Children’s Palace Art Troupe will be at Blaisdell Concert Hall Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Columns of history support the stage on which these 10-to 17-year-olds perform their song, music and dance the world over.

“The children will be doing dance including ballet, Chinese traditional dance and minority dances,” explains Yen Chun, who’s on the board of directors of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. “Did you know China has 55 national minorities?”

The children also are accomplished in Beijing Opera and in playing Chinese instruments as well as piano and violin. But we need to go back a little in history to understand the full import of this troupe.


Besides her role with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Chun also directs the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Hawaii Foundation, is founder of the U.S. Soong Ching Ling Foundation and honorary chairwoman of the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation - some of the organizations responsible for the presence of the troupe in Hawaii. Soong Ching Ling was the wife of Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China.

“Madam Sun Yat-sen dedicated her whole life to China’s revolution, and she worked really hard to increase the welfare of women and children,” says Chun. “She worked in an orphanage, she founded a maternity hospital, a youth theater. She founded a magazine called China Reconstructs, which is today’s China Today. In 1949, after China became the People’s Republic of China, the government gave Soong Ching Ling a beautiful home that previously belonged to a business tycoon.”

The troupe’s featured pianist, Yang Chao Jun

In 1953, Ling’s philanthropic concern for children manifested in turning that beautiful estate into the China Welfare Institute Children’s Palace, the first place in the nation to conduct after-school programs. (In the spirit of Ling, the troupe’s Aug. 27 performance will benefit Child and Family Service.) In addition to the performing arts, Palace students have the opportunity to enroll in calligraphy, painting, sculpture, computer science, environmental protection, model making and photography. Since that first Palace, many more have opened in almost every city. Prodigies as young as 6 arrive with hope at the Palace, where they must pass an exam before the doors of opportunity open.

Those golden doors greeted the now 15-year-old featured pianist who will be on stage here in Hawaii, Yang Chao Jun.

“Jun started playing at 4,” reads Chun, translating the Chinese pamphlet into English. “At 6 years old she took the exam and got admitted at the Children’s Palace. Then she started playing and won many, many awards.”

Jun wasn’t just tapped by a fairy godmother’s wand. Her poverty-stricken family lived outside of Shanghai, where both parents’ill health kept them unemployed. Jun managed to get ahold of some instructional video CDs. “She couldn’t afford piano lessons, so she watched the VCDs and imitated them at home,” says Chun.

After she passed the exam, the Children’s Palace gave her a full scholarship and then she blossomed, winning numerous competitions and playing Chopin for audiences in France, Australia, the Philippines, Korea and Poland (Chopin’s birthplace).

The show includes a traditional Chinese opera

The Palace children often go on to become teachers, professionals and even famous personalities. They performed at the Shanghai World Expo Opening Ceremony earlier this year - the largest World Expo yet. They have performed for various world dignitaries, including a performance at the White House: “I believe it was Ronald Reagan who called them the little ambassadors,” says Chun.

One Palace girl who performed in Hawaii - the troupe has performed here three times - became famous for her role as the young Soong Ai-ling, sister of Soong Ching Ling, in the 1997 film The Soong Sisters.

Yen Chun has another story about an 8-year-old piano player who arrived in Hawaii with the Palace Art Troupe in 1989, the first time the troupe performed here, for the 200-year anniversary of the Chinese in Hawaii.

“This little pianist, he was so cute and talented, but he was really naughty - he was everywhere,” says Chun of the boy. “So we had to ask someone to watch him so he wouldn’t bang anything during the performance.”

Some years later Chun was listening to the radio when the host mentioned a concert at the Honolulu Academy of Arts by a renowned pianist who would be representing the United States at a Chopin competition in Russia.

“Then (the pianist) gets on the radio and he said, ‘This is not my first time in Hawaii, this is my second time. The first time I came here was with the Shanghai Children’s Palace.’ He said he had beautiful memories of Hawaii. It gave me goose bumps - that was the kid who came in 1989 and performed for us.”

As it turned out, after young Sun Mei-Ting performed with the Palace troupe in Hawaii, his parents sent him to New York to study music. He has since won numerous awards, has performed concerts all over the world and he earned his doctorate of musical arts at Juilliard.

“This is the kind of the talent of the children who are coming to Hawaii,” beams Chun.

The Beijing Opera promis-

Page 1 of 2 pages for this story  1 2 >

E-mail this story | Print this page | Comments (0) | Archive | RSS

Most Recent Comment(s):

Posting a comment on requires a free registration.



Auto Login

Forgot Password

Sign Up for MidWeek newsletter Times Supermarket



Hawaii Luxury

Tiare Asia and Alex Bing
were spotted at the Sugar Ray's Bar Lounge