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Unbreakable Spirits

San Weishunu Ensemble

Unbreakable Spirits, the 12-part radio series produced by Artistic Circles and Ann Feldman and showcasing China’s emerging women musical and performance artists, reached thousands of listeners throughout the world in 1999 and 2000. Not only did the series garner praise and awards for its portrayal of the changing roles of women, but its influence and outreach continues in the new millennium.

First aired on WBEZ’s program Eight Forty Eight in March, 1999, the station “received more phone calls and e-mails from listeners than we have for any other single segment so far…” said Tish Valva, Executive Producer, Eight Forty Eight, WBEZ-FM Chicago.

The series, which combined narrative with musical performances ranging from “Pop and Rock in China”, an interview with a female Buddhist Monk discussing Chinese Buddhist chant, and “Bridging China and Japan”, continued to elicit excellent reviews and praise. Scott Moore wrote that “the combination of political introspection over music is sending chills up my spine”, while another who listened the “Anti-Japanese Protest Songs” called it “an illuminating and effectively integrated mixture of music, terrible personal memories and scholarly context”.

In March 2000, the series was syndicated and aired on Public Radio International, reaching stations across the country and abroad. Comments an praise followed from as far away as the University of Amsterdam where Jeroen de Kloet wrote “As an academic working on Chinese popular culture, I consider this project very important to facilitate a deeper understanding of the variety of contemporary Chinese cultures.”

Besides the listeners’ and reviewers’ enthusiasm for the series, several segments received special awards. The segment “Conducting the Cultural Revolution” in which China’s first woman conductor discussers her commitment to music despite restriction during the Cultural Revolution, won the Gracie Allen Award for a documentary of 30 minutes or less given by the Foundation of American Women in Radio and Television. In giving the award, they stated, “Your entry displays superior quality and effectively portrays the changing roles and concerns of women.”

China Rocks Intro by Artistic Circles and Ann Feldman

Female Buddhist nun

Female Buddist Monk by Artistic Circles and Ann Feldman

Two other segments, “Anti-Japanese Protest Songs” in which a 77-year-old composer relates the experiences of writing and between the two countries, received a special jury award from among 200 participants representing 60 countries at the 7th International Radio Shanghai Music Festival in November 1999.

The life of Unbreakable Spirits continues in new and creative ways, a living metaphor for Artistic Circles and Ann Feldman itself.


The Unbreakable Spirits Series is the winner of the “Special Jury Award” for the radio program Bridging China & Japan from the Seventh International Radio Shanghai Music Festival in 1999

Ann Feldman was awarded the Gracie Allen Award in 2000 from the Foundation for American Women in Radio and Television for the radio program “Conducting the Cultural Revolution” for her work on Radio programs including Unbreakbale Spirits.