FALUN GONG: The End of Days

Maria Hsia Chang, Author . Yale Univ. $25 (208p) ISBN 978-0-300-10227-7

This is an objective and scholarly account of one of the most challenging mass phenomena to emerge from China in recent years. Falun Gong ("Law Wheel Cultivation"), founded in 1992, had attracted millions of practitioners in China and worldwide by the time the Chinese banned it as an "evil cult" in 1999. Chang, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno, presents a highly readable account of the origins and beliefs of the group. Although Falun Gong's practices are rooted in traditional Chinese qigong, which involves meditation to cultivate qi (life force), Falun Gong has broader goals of moral salvation, drawing on concepts from China's traditional religions, including Buddhism and Taoism. Since the group's founder and leader, Li Hongzhi, fled China to become a resident in the United States in 1998, he has become increasingly critical of the Chinese government. He encourages his followers to stand up for Falun Gong, despite fierce Chinese government repression, even at the risk of their lives. Chang is unsparing in detailing the illegal and deceptive methods the Chinese government has used to repress Falun Gong. At the same time, she explains why the authorities fear such a movement, situating the repression of Falun Gong in the broader context of China's persecution of certain other religious faiths and its history of revolts led by millenarian movements. The author relates how rapid change, disillusionment with the increasingly irrelevant official Marxist ideology, and growing corruption in China have made many people feel anxious for some moral and spiritual anchor. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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