What is Falun Gong

Falun Gong practitioners meditating in New Zealand, 2001
Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa) is one of a variety of Chinese health and spiritual practices known loosely as “qigong.” According to some estimates over 2000 different forms of qigong exist in China, with many dating back centuries; archaeological findings trace qigong to as far back as 3000 or more years ago. Falun Gong, like its kin, consists of gentle exercises and special postures, combined with a meditation component. Many liken its technique to tai-chi or yoga.

Aside from its popularity (70-100 million by most accounts), what is usually said to distinguish Falun Gong is its emphasis on moral rectitude, referred to by its practitioners as “self-cultivation,” or “cultivation” for short. Three values—truth, compassion, and tolerance—form the backbone of Falun Gong’s philosophy. Practitioners of the art aspire to live by such values in their daily lives, achieving, over time, a state of selflessness and inner balance.

The discipline was first made public in May of 1992 by Li Hongzhi, who adherents regard as the practice’s founder or instructor; prior to 1992, Falun Gong is said to have been taught in private to a single student and passed down in a lineage manner. Li taught the practice throughout China for most of three years, lecturing in the early 90’s to audiences of up to several thousand and gaining a large following. Within a few years reportedly hundreds of thousands had taken up the practice. News reports and word of mouth acclaimed Falun Gong’s health benefits and positive impact.

By 1996 Falun Gong had established itself as the dominant force in China’s qigong and fitness scene, with Li’s third book, Zhuan Falun, landing on Beijing’s bestseller list; millions were said to be practicing by then. Li also began to teach the practice abroad around that time, traveling to Sweden first, and later France, Germany, Australia, and the United States among other nations. Today Falun Gong is said to be practiced in over 50 different countries.

A number of governments outside of China have lauded the practice, bestowing Falun Gong and its teacher with several hundred proclamations and recognitions along with three consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. A number of states and municipalities in the U.S. have designated days or weeks in recognition of Falun Gong and its civic value. A number of legislators, ranging from the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), have been vocal in their support of Falun Gong.

Falun Gong’s reception in the West has been overshadowed in recent years by waves of oppression in the People’s Republic of China, where the practice is now outlawed and persecuted. Since July of 1999 communist officials, most notably Party head Jiang Zemin, have campaigned to “eradicate” Falun Gong and any support for it among the Chinese people or foreign governments.

According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, as of November 2002, over 500 have died from maltreatment in custody, although sources inside China place the number of deaths in the thousands. Hundreds of thousands more suffer relentless abuse in prisons, forced labor camps, and brainwashing facilities.

For more information about the practice of Falun Gong, please visit: http://www.falundafa.org