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Lin Hwai-min: A Love Affair with Rice (Part 1)

By Chou Sing Chu Foundation

Lin Huai Min1

Lin Hwai-min (Photo by Liu Chen-hsiang, Courtesy of Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay)

“Would you turn up the lights please? I want to see every face in the audience.” These were Lin Hwai-min’s first words as he stepped out onto the stage. Lin, the founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan is certainly not one to hog the spotlight, instead preferring to turn this into a two way interaction with his audience.

Seeing that Lin was in town recently to present his troupe’s performance, Rice during the Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts 2015, the Singapore Chinese Teacher’s Union, Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning and Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay grabbed the opportunity to invite him to hold a special talk, Coffee with Salt. It was an inspirational afternoon as Lin shared his own journey; his roots to his native village, and how he hopes his celebrated work, Rice has sown the seeds for the future of cultural development. 

A Wanderer’s Awakening

In the sixties and seventies, before Lin joined the ranks of renowned dance choreographers, he was considered one of the young budding writers of the new generation. Having started writing at the age of fourteen, Lin published Cicada, a collection of short stories when he was twenty-two. Lin came from a distinguished family where his father Lin Ching Sheng held several important political positions. But despite misgivings of having ‘let down’ his family, Lin used the money he earned from writing to enrol in his first dance class. He never looked back.

Lin Huai Min2

Lin Hwai-min makes use of the aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy in Cursive I (Photo Courtesy of Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay)

The world may have lost a lawyer, a doctor or a promising writer, but in return it has gained one of the most influential dance choreographers. Using Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha which portrayed the search for spiritual enlightenment, Lin shared his own journey of awakening. In 1994, with Siddhartha in hand, Lin visited the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained enlightenment—Bodhgaya in the Indian state of Bihar. It was somewhat of a culture shock for Lin. As he stood by the Ganges River, jostled by tourists, devotees, beggars, the sick and the poor, he had an epiphany that the Ganges was like a carer who nurtures one from birth to death. This is very unlike Chinese culture which hides suffering and death and honours only what is lost. It was a life-changing moment and so touched was Lin by this scene that he was inspired to write Songs of the Wanderers.

RICE - Photo by Liu Chen-hsiang (2) MS4

Cloud Gate dancers appreciate the significance of rice as an important essence of life (Photo by Liu Chen-hsiang, Courtesy of Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay)

About Cloud Gate Dance Theatre

Lin Hwai-min was born in 1947 and is acclaimed as one of the most talented dance choreographers of the twentieth century. He is the founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre which has put up more than 1700 shows on 200 international stages and won audiences over through its creative and sensitive performances. In 2003, the government of Taipei designated 21st August as Cloud Gate Day and named the street where its office stands Cloud Gate Street. Researchers at the Lulin Observatory who discovered the asteroid ‘200025 Cloud Gate’ in 2007 also named it after the dance company, a testament to Cloud Gate’s reputation as ‘Taiwan’s national cultural treasure’.

Please look out for Lin Hwai-min: A Love Affair with Rice (Part 2)

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