The problem with enlightened beings is that they lose all interest in the world. They see the world as a divine play and the cries of mortals as the cries of unwitting participants in this play. However from time to time there arise enlightened beings that are sympathetic to the pleas of mere mortals like us. The idea of Avalokitesvara refers to this. This is a form of Buddha who is not detached and indifferent but who is willing to listen to our pleas and intervene in our affairs. When the Chinese monk Faxian traveled to India around 400 CE, he provided an account of Avalokitesvara statues being venerated by devotees from all walks of life. The idea of a thousand-armed Avalokitesvara speaks to the theme of a Buddha who literally sprouts a thousand arms in his desire to help the multitude of his devotees.
The dance of the thousand hands is performed by “The China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe”. When it was established in 1987 the troupe was an amateur performance troupe with members recruited from around the country. However in 2002 the troupe staged its first commercial performance.
The dance of thousand hands brought to prominence Tai Lihua who is featured prominently in the dance. All the dancers in this dance, along with Tai, are hearing impaired. Tai lost her hearing at a very young age when she was treated with streptomycin injection for high fever and developed a reaction to it. She soon entered a primary school for deaf and mute children. One day she found herself in a class in which the teacher asked them to feel the vibration of a drum. “I was thrilled with joy when the rhythmic vibration passed over my body from under my feet,” Tai recalled. Tai became obsessed with dance from them on.
Tai and her dance members, 11 girls and 9 boys, cannot hear the music, but their four instructors, who can hear and speak, signal the rhythm of the music from four corners of the room. With diligent practice their performance is nearly flawless.
Tai said when she is too old to dance she hopes to teach other disabled people to enjoy this art form.