Origins of Falun Gong

Falun Gong is usually identified as being part of the Chinese qigong group. The term Qigong can cover a range of practices, which include regular breathing, meditation and slow movements. The exercises are performed in order to seek spiritual and moral enlightenment and improved physicality. The modern practice of qigong began during the 1950’s where groups of Communists practiced the techniques in order to improve their health. Using the modern term qigong meant that the practice would not be misconstrued as any religious practice and would therefore not be persecuted as such. Those who began practicing qigong omitted any elements of religion believing it to be a particular type of medicine in China;they also discovered the physical existence of gi energy, which the practice of qigong tries to harness. There was very little spiritual practice to follow after the Mao era, so a great number of inner city and older peoplebegan practicing Qigong. This lead to a sharp increase in qigong masters who opened their own qigong centres. Due to its vast popularity across China, the Chinese Qigong Science Research Society was started in 1985 and this oversaw and administered the movement.

Li Hongzhipublicly spoke aboutFaun Gong for the first time (or Falun Dafa) in 1992 in Changchun located in the Northeast of China. Within his hagiographic biography he mentions he was taught by a number of highly regarded masters of Buddhism and Daoism. The practice of Falun Dafa is thought to have resulted fromsorting through and making notes about all he learnt from the masters who taught him ‘cultivation practice’.

Li talked about the practice of Falun Gong as a form of a ‘centuries old custom of cultivation’ and emphasized that he wanted religion and the spirit to be parts of the qigong practice to be revived after being discarded during the Communist period.He wanted different things than qigong, it wasn’t about a healthy body or getting ‘superpowers’ but it was to make the heart pure and reach a higher level of spirituality.

It is different to other qigong groups as it looks at a wide variety of divine and theoretical subjects. A great deal of emphasis is placed on both higher morals and being virtuous. The practice of Falun Gong identifies with the Buddhist school but also takes both concepts and languages based in Taosism and Confucianism. Some scholars believe it to be a fusion of faiths, one that mixes religions, cultures and philosophies.