Falun Gong is one of several groups based in China whose belief and practice is centered upon the practice of qigong, an exercise process not unlike yoga, believed to stimulate the flow of qi, or life energy, through the body. It was founded by Master Li Hongzi (1951-) in 1992, but had emerged as part of the support that the Chinese government had given to research on, and the practice of, qigong in the 1980s. Qigong practice has been perpetuated in China, with government approbation, through the National Qigong Federation. In 1992, Li Hongzi withdrew from the federation and through Falun Gong has spread his own peculiar teachings based upon the traditional practice.
Above and beyond the simple practice of the exercises, Master Li has emphasized the "cultivation of the XinXing," a path of life emphasizing the key virtues of truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance. Practicing cultivation leads to enlightenment, a concept tied to the teachings of the Buddha. Followers believe strongly in reincarnation and karma, and Master Li teaches that passing through tribulations are a necessary part of relieving oneself of past karmic debts. He also teaches the existence of a pantheon of deities and spirit entities (including demonic ones) that interfere with life and history on Earth. Possibly most offensive to other qigong practitioners and the Chinese government, Master Li suggested that he was the only person who could lay out the exact course for the practice of the exercises and demanded that all of the secrets of the tradition be made available to the public. The basic concepts are laid out in a book, China Falun Gong, authored by Li.
Falun Gong also emphasizes the concept of the Falun, part of the invisible human anatomy assumed to exist in traditional Chinese teachings. The Falun is a center of energy located in the region of the lower abdomen. It is believed to be a microcosm of the universe and contain all of its secrets. The practice of qigong awakens the qi energy to flow more freely through the body, bringing good health and well-being.
Falun Gong spread quickly through China and Hong Kong, and then through the Chinese communities in diaspora worldwide. With almost no attention from the press, strong centers developed in Singapore, Taiwan, and throughout southeast Asia. Practitioners soon created centers across North America and Europe. In 1998 Master Li moved to New York City.
In 1999, China began a new campaign against unofficial religious movements that included Falun Gong prominently among its targets. The movement has millions of followers in China, though in spite of the spiritual aspect to the teachings concerning "cultivation" and the recognition of supernatural entities, the Falun Gong membership insists that it is not a religion. Nevertheless, the Chinese government has moved against it, arresting several hundred of its leaders, at least four of whom have died while in custody. The government has also insisted on the extradition of Li back to China to stand trial, but the United States government has responded by condemning the persecution of the group. In the meantime, Chinese government officials have enlisted the aid of Western anticultists, including the magician James Randi, known for his hostility to occult and minority religious practices, to assist them in developing a publicity campaign to justify their actions to Western nations.
In facing the authority of the Chinese government, Falun Gong leaders have shown remarkable commitment to their movement and insisted that it is not a challenge to the reigning authority. Outside of China, the massive coverage of the movement has led to its further growth, including the attraction of many non-Chinese. The Chinese government and the movement have also waged a war of words on the Internet. The primary Falun Gong sites are at http://www.falundafa.org and at http://minghui.ca/. The ongoing controversy is being monitored by several researchers, including Massimo Introviugne of the Center for Studies on New Religions in Turin, Italy, whose webpage on Falun Gong may be found at http://www.cesnur.org/. Falun Gong has no official headquarters in the United States. It operates through a set of volunteer contacts whose names and phone numbers are posted on the Inter-net sites.
Falun Gong: The Real Story. Pamphlet informally published by American Falun Gong practitioners, 1999.
Li Hongzi. China Falun Gong. Hong Kong: Falun Fo Fa Publishing, 1992, 1998.
"Falun Gong." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/falun-gong
"Falun Gong." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved May 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/falun-gong
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"Falun Gong." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved May 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/falun-gong