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Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 22:28:24 -0700
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>
From: "Marilyn Levine, Lewis-Clark State College" <mlevine@lcsc.edu>
Subject: H-Asia: The Falun Gong Sect (3 Replies)

The Falun Gong Sect

A dialog from the H-Asia list, May 1999

Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 22:28:24 -0700
From: "Adam D. Frank" <afrank@mail.utexas.edu>

Dear Tim Reins:

I have been doing research on the Falun Gong in the United States for the past several months (very preliminary) as part of a larger dissertation project on contempoarary qi-development practices in China and the United States. With any luck, I'll secure funding to do more intensive research in China within the next six to nine months. Since the April 27th incident in Tiananmen, there have been articles in the New York Times almsot everyday. In addition, most of the web-based news services, e.g. MSNBC, BBC's web service, the Hong Kong Standard, and the South China Post have been carrying regular stories. While I haven't checked it out yet, I'm sure the Far Eastern Economic Review will be carrying stories as well.

One of your best bets might be to do a web search on "Falun Gong" or "Falun Dafa". You'll get at least a dozen sites in the US. Right now, there are at least several thousand Falun Gong practitioners in the US. If the people I've been talking to are any indication, Falun Gong practitioners feel very misrepresented in the press. They've been described as everything from a "religious cult" to a "sect" to a "martial arts group." I think part of the problem arises in trying to fit the group into pre-existing categories. With millions of practitioners, Falun Gong is probably many different things, but it doesn't seem to have a specific political agenda.

One interesting connection that several news reports have been making is the apparent similarity between Falun Gong and millenarian movements like the Boxer Uprising and the Taiping Rebellion. While there are some similarities to many millenarian movements (e.g. the presence of a single, charismatic leader, Li Hongzhi, now living in the United States), the make up of Falun Gong's membership is much different than these previous movements. Members seem to come from all walks of life and all classes, including a substantial number of party members. The majority of practitioners I've met in the US (both Chinese and non- Chinese) are well-educated, including several Ph.D. physicists and engineers. Many of them had practised other types of qigong but found this one to their liking.

Regarding actual practice, the outward forms are a combination of sitting, standing, and moving meditation forms that take 45 minutes to an hour o complete. The forms themselves are not that different from many other qi-cultivation practices. The closest form I've seen to Falun Gong comes from a branch of Shaolin, but I would not make a claim that there is any direct relationship. Despite the obvious pleasure people derive from the forms, however, they de- emphasize the importance of the outward forms. Reading Li Hongzhi's texts is at least as important to them, if not more important. The texts, available online from the various web sites, refer frequently to Buddhism and Taoism, but in a very modernist, maybe even New Age tone.

This is very preliminary work. I'm working on a paper at the moment specifically on the Falun Gong and Yan Xin Gong, which I would be happy to share when it's completed. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else out there who is doing related research.

Hope this helps,

Adam Frank
Doctoral Program in Folklore
Department of Anthropology
The University of Texas at Austin

Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 22:28:24 -0700
From: Xiao-bin Ji <xiaoji@crab.rutgers.edu>

Dear Professor Reins:

The Falun gong has many websites. If you search for "Falun dafa" on the web, you should be able to find quite a few. Here are two website addresses:

www.falundafa.org (English language material) and
www.campus.cua.edu/~lai/falun_w.html (Chinese language material).

The Falun gong leader Li Hongzhi's books seem to be selling very well in Chinatown bookstores in NYC and Philadelphia. I have also seen English editions of his books at Borders. It is interesting that his articles are called "jing1wen2" (in Chinese Buddhism this terms stands for the texts of Buddhist sutras) in Chinese, but in English they seem to prefer "sermons." It seems, however, Falun gong practitioners have not yet standardized their English language terms. The central doctrines of Zhen1 (truth), Shan4(goodness, benevolence), Ren3 (forbearance) have more than one version of English translations.

Since I am not a practitioner, I only have an outsider's perspective. Perhaps practitioners (if any) on the list can offer comments from the insiders' point of view.

Best wishes,
Xiao-bin Ji
History Dept.
Rugers, Camden

Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 22:28:24 -0700
From: "Jeffrey G. Barlow" <barlowj@pacificu.edu>

Falun Gong has a huge complex of web sites in a variety of languages. You could start at:


Jeffrey G. Barlow - Professor of History
Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon USA 97116
e-mail: barlowj@pacificu.edu