Falun Gong: The End of Days

Yale University Press
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The world first took notice of a religious group called Falun Gong on April 25, 1999, when more than 10,000 of its followers protested before the Chinese Communist headquarters in Beijing. Falun Gong investigates events in the wake of the demonstration: Beijing’s condemnation of the group as a Western, anti-Chinese force and doomsday cult, the sect’s continued defiance, and the nationwide campaign that resulted in the incarceration and torture of many Falun Gong faithful.

Maria Hsia Chang discusses the Falun Gong’s beliefs, including their ideas on cosmology, humanity’s origin, karma, reincarnation, UFOs, and the coming apocalypse. She balances an account of the Chinese government’s case against the sect with an evaluation of the credibility of those accusations. Describing China’s long history of secret societies that initiated powerful uprisings and sometimes overthrew dynasties, she explains the Chinese government’s brutal treatment of the sect. And she concludes with a chronicle of the ongoing persecution of religious groups in China—of which Falun Gong is only one of many—and the social conditions that breed the popular discontent and alienation that spawn religious millenarianism.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Yale University Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 2008
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9780300133172
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Almost a half century has passed since the inception of the People's Republic cf China. In that time a charismatic leader has ruled and died, leaving a wake of .Destruction in his quest to transform China. In that time, too, the PRC's most powerful ally and mentor, the Soviet Union, has dismantled and announced that jcmmunism had failed. Today, China fluctuates between tradition and modernity, ideology and pragmatism, between an antiquated collectivist ethic and a new spirit rf individualism. It is a country precariously suspended between past and future.

Maria Hsia Chang's "The Labors of Sisyphus "is a long overdue reassessment of rie meaning and purpose of the Chinese communist revolution. In it, she discusses ihe thought of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, reform and its dilemmas, regionalism in greater China and autonomous areas, and nationalism. She also eyjnines China's immediate present and uncertain future. If it manages to transform economic growth into development, China--filled with natural resources and a large, capable labor force--has the potential to become a world superpower. It could also collapse under the weight of its own problems: regionalism, a flawed state sector, corruption, and a pronounced decline in state capacity. If China succeeds, an imposing new economic power will enter the global stage, one that is often arbitrary and prone to despotism and xenophobia, unless it is tempered by political reform.

Prior accounts of communist China have failed to capture China's evolving present In all its complexity and variety, misrepresenting Maoist China In the process. Information shortfall was partly to blame: as recently as August 1994, the Chinese government itself decried falsification of statistics by government officials and cadres. Sinologists in the 1960s and 1970s had to approach analysis of contemporary China with clear recognition of the limitations involved and the questionable validity of the factual sources available. Maria Hsia Chang lends structure, meaning, and purpose to the very complex recent political and historical past of communist China. With greater access to more accurate information, Chang is able to analyze objectively, without political motive or intention, providing readers with a fresh look at the People's Republic. Her pathbreaking work will be of interest to scholars of international economics and politics, sinologists, and historians.

On April 25, 1999, ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners gathered outside Zhongnanhai, the guarded compound where China's highest leaders live and work, in a day-long peaceful protest of police brutality against fellow practitioners in the neighboring city of Tianjin. Stunned and surprised, China's leaders launched a campaign of brutal suppression against the group which continues to this day. This book, written by a leading scholar of the history of this Chinese popular religion, is the first to offer a full explanation of what Falun Gong is and where it came from, placing the group in the broader context of the modern history of Chinese religion as well as the particular context of post-Mao China. Falun Gong began as a form of qigong, a general name describing physical and mental disciplines based loosely on traditional Chinese medical and spiritual practices. Qigong was "invented" in the 1950s by members of the Chinese medical establishment who were worried that China's traditional healing arts would be lost as China modeled its new socialist health care system on Western biomedicine. In the late 1970s, Chinese scientists "discovered" that qi possessed genuine scientific qualities, which allowed qigong to become part of China's drive for modernization. With the support of China's leadership, qigong became hugely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, as charismatic qigongqigong boom, the first genuine mass movement in the history of the People's Republic. Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi started his own school of qigong in 1992, claiming that the larger movement had become corrupted by money and magic tricks. Li was welcomed into the qigong world and quickly built a nationwide following of several million practitioners, but ran afoul of China's authorities and relocated to the United States in 1995. In his absence, followers in China began to organize peaceful protests of perceived media slights of Falun Gong, which increased from the mid-'90s onward as China's leaders began to realize that they had created, in the qigong boom, a mass movement with religious and nationalistic undertones, a potential threat to their legitimacy and control. Based on fieldwork among Chinese Falun Gong practitioners in North America and on close examinations of Li Hongzhi's writings, this volume offers an inside look at the movement's history in Chinese popular religion.
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