In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Falun Gong

  • Introduction

Chinese Studies The Falun Gong
James Tong
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0033


From its modest origin as a qigong group in 1992 that practiced deep breathing combined with meditation, the Falun Gong (also transliterated as “Falungong” in some sources) grew into a large congregation of around seventy million in China barely seven years later, when the Chinese government outlawed it in July 1999. What propelled it to national and global attention was its siege on 25 April 1999 of the Zhongnanhai, the national headquarter of the Chinese Communist Party, an unprecedentedly defiant act that prompted a nationwide suppression in July 1999. After the baptism by fire, where all its organizational infrastructure was devastated inside China, the Falun Gong rose from the ashes and established communities in all five continents and created a vast media network with a daily newspaper distributed in thirty-five countries, three television stations, two radio stations, and two news agencies with global-reach capacity. It successfully courted the patronage of host governments, which showered it with more than a thousand commendations and over two thousand proclamations and supportive legislative bills and resolutions. Few religious communities or social movements have grown so fast, suffered so much, and reinvented themselves in so short a time. The parameters of this bibliography are defined by the relative youth of the Falun Gong. Founded in 1992, the congregation was barely twenty years old at the time this bibliography was written, and it was only after the Chinese regime banned the organization in July 1999 that it began to attract scholarly and media attention. In comparison to other organized religions, the Falun Gong is in its ecclesiastical infancy, untouched by power struggle over internal doctrinal disputes, alternative mission choices, and apostolic succession crises. Consequently, many of the analytic foci have been on its early institutional history of rapid growth, and its conflict with the Chinese state. The bibliography is organized into five main parts. It is introduced by studies providing an institutional overview, historical and social background, China’s religious policy, and theoretical approaches. This is followed by a second section listing reference and data sources both from the Falun Gong and the Chinese and US governments. Works by its founder (Li Hongzhi), its basic beliefs, and its teachings constitute the third part. The fourth section comprises studies that analyze its growth, its recruitment process, the health effects of practicing its breathing exercises, and regional patterns of its operations. A final section groups research on its relations with the Chinese state, suppression, deprogramming, and legal justification by the Chinese government.

General Overviews

Most monographs on the Falun Gong provide a general overview of its developments before the ban in China and underscore its affinity with Buddhism. Works on its historical roots and social background reference its links with China’s religious tradition and market reforms. Studies on China’s religious policy provide the political background, while those on theoretical models of the Falun Gong offer more-explicit analytical approaches.

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