The literal translation for both terms is “Dharma Wheel Practice”. They describe a spiritual order originating in China, which focuses on both the psyche and the physical form. The practice is a combination of meditation, an exercise called “qigong”, which aligns the body, breath and mind as well as martial arts. The moral philosophy behind the discipline focuses on the principles of being truthful, compassionate and showing forbearance.
The key focuses of this practice draw on morality and virtue and the qigong element is partly Buddhist but it also uses principles of the Taoist customs. Practicing righteousness and meditation, Falun Gong members seek improved health and most of all, spiritual enlightenment.
Li Hongzhi was the first person to teach Falun Gong in public in 1992 in the Northeast of China. It became popular towards the “qigong boom’ ending, which was a period of time where many similar practices were taught, which included many of the same elements such as meditation, focus on slow and regular breathing as well as exercises carried out in slow-motion. Qigong groups in general are different as they have fees and memberships, a daily ritual of worshipping and focuses on strict morals and theology in it’s teaching. The practice of Falun Gong has often been described by Western academics as a ‘spiritual movement’ that focuses on ancient Chinese beliefs and has been described as a type of religion. At first there was much support for the practice by those in power. Then during the middle to late 90’s the Communist party and other powerful authorities began to view the practice as a threat because of its teachings, the amount of people practicing it and the spiritual elements of the teaching. It was estimated by the Chinese government that by 1999 there were seventy million people practicing Falun Gong. As tensions rose between the government and Falon Gong members, over ten thousand of them gathered in a peaceful protect in Beijing near the government buildings to ask to be legally recognised and to be free from the state interfering in their teachings. It is widely believed that this became the catalyst for much of the suppression that followed.
By July 20th 1999 the leaders of the Communist party decided to initiate a nationwide crackdown on the practice of Falun Gong, creating a powerful propaganda campaign in order to completely destroy the practice. Internet sites, which included any mention of Falun Gong, were blocked, and later that year the government declared that the Falun Gong practice went against all their beliefs and was a threat to social stability.Human rights organizationsbelieve that hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong followers faced abuse. Human rights abuses include false imprisonment, forced labour, mental abuse, and torture by the Chinesegovernment. By 2009 it is believed that at least two thousand Falun Gong members died of abuse whilst in custody. Some observers estimate that the number is much greater, and believe that tens of thousands may have been killed in order to keep up China’s organ transplant industry. Since the campaign to suppress and destroy Falun Gong members, those that still practice have become keen advocators for better human rights in China.
The founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi has lived in the United States since 1996 and the practice of Falun Gong has now become global. Within China it is believed that millions of people still continue to practice Falun Gong despite the campaign against them. It is estimated that outside of China, hundred of thousands of people practice Falun Gong across over seventy countries.