Li Hongzhi

Li Hongzhi
▪ 2000

      In July 1999 Li Hongzhi became known to the world when the Chinese government condemned the practice of his Falun Dafa system, a cultivation of five meditation exercises (known as Falun Gong) that were based on ancient Chinese methods of spiritual healing and enlightenment. Li and his system came under attack on April 25, when more than 10,000 followers protested against being called a “superstitious cult” by the Chinese government. Li, allegedly unaware of the ensuing events, left China just one day before the protest, traveling to Australia for a presentation. He did not return. Three months later, Chinese Pres. Jiang Zemin declared the practitioners of Falun Gong a threat to the government and issued a warrant for Li's arrest while detaining thousands of his followers, some of whom were officials for the Chinese Communist regime. Millions of Li's books and cassette tapes were destroyed in the crackdown.

      Li was born into an intellectual family on July 7, 1952, in Jilin province, China. He studied under masters from the Buddhist and Taoist faiths. With the surge in China in the late 1980s of Qiqong-related activities—from which many Falun Gong exercises descended—Li decided to synthesize his techniques in order to establish a synergy between the mind and nature. He compiled many of his lectures into a book entitled Zhuan Falun, which served as the main text for his methodology. In it, he called for spiritual enlightenment through meditation and the striving toward a high moral standard of living. Falun Gong became popular in the 1990s largely because many followers claimed to be healed from diseases that traditional medicine could not treat. By the end of 1999 Li estimated there to be around 100 million Falun Gong practitioners throughout the world. Zhuan Falun had been translated into nine different languages.

      Shortly after publishing Zhuan Falun, Li announced that he had completed his teachings in China. He began to travel extensively, making guest appearances at conferences in support of his techniques. Li became a U.S. citizen in 1997 and moved to New York City in 1998. He called for dialogue with the Chinese government to resolve the crisis that had resulted from the use of his system. His teachings continued to be relayed in books and on audiotapes throughout the world, and such cities as Chicago, Toronto, and Houston, Texas, had honoured him by proclaiming “Master Li Hongzhi” days in recognition of the positive contributions of Falun Dafa.

DeAudray Brown

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Universalium. 2010.

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