Cover image for Falun Gong : the end of days
Falun Gong : the end of days
Chang, Maria Hsia.
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Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 188 pages ; 22 cm
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BP605.F36 C47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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. 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.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Political scientist Chang provides a brief and accessible introduction to Falun Gong that places the movement in political and historical context, and she offers a critique of the Chinese government's policy toward religion that raises important questions about relations between quasi-religious groups such as Falun Gong and modern states. Though Chang is most concerned with criticizing the practice of socialism with Chinese characteristics, many of the questions she raises are relevant beyond China and beyond single-party states. Her overview of religious and millenarian movements in Chinese history makes it clear that ostensibly apolitical groups have had profoundly political impacts, and this lends credence to at least one rationale for the Chinese government's hostile reaction to Falun Gong. At the same time, her analysis of the extent to which hostile government reaction has transformed religious and quasi-religious groups into revolutionary political movements amounts to a cautionary tale for modern states and a compelling argument for a practice of religious freedom that extends beyond mainstream and established religions. --Steven Schroeder Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is an objective and scholarly account of one of the most challenging mass phenomena to emerge from China in recent years. Falun Gong ("Law Wheel Cultivation"), founded in 1992, had attracted millions of practitioners in China and worldwide by the time the Chinese banned it as an "evil cult" in 1999. Chang, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno, presents a highly readable account of the origins and beliefs of the group. Although Falun Gong's practices are rooted in traditional Chinese qigong, which involves meditation to cultivate qi (life force), Falun Gong has broader goals of moral salvation, drawing on concepts from China's traditional religions, including Buddhism and Taoism. Since the group's founder and leader, Li Hongzhi, fled China to become a resident in the United States in 1998, he has become increasingly critical of the Chinese government. He encourages his followers to stand up for Falun Gong, despite fierce Chinese government repression, even at the risk of their lives. Chang is unsparing in detailing the illegal and deceptive methods the Chinese government has used to repress Falun Gong. At the same time, she explains why the authorities fear such a movement, situating the repression of Falun Gong in the broader context of China's persecution of certain other religious faiths and its history of revolts led by millenarian movements. The author relates how rapid change, disillusionment with the increasingly irrelevant official Marxist ideology, and growing corruption in China have made many people feel anxious for some moral and spiritual anchor. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Since 1980, Chang (political science, Univ. of Nevada, Reno) has been writing and thinking about Chinese mass movements, especially those connected to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (e.g., the Blue Shirts during the Chinese civil war) as well as the Tiananmen crisis. She has also collaborated with A. James Gregor to consider basic concepts of nationalism and human rights on Taiwan and in Mainland China. Her present book on the Falun Gong movement offers an intelligent description of its evolution, its irrational aspects, and how the Chinese government has dealt with it. She begins by discussing its "founder," Li Hongzhi. Drawing upon both Taoist and Buddhist beliefs, Li hoped to provide people from all walks of life with a moral fiber missing in today's society by inspiring them to focus on individual (internal) action (and inaction). Chang then gives numerous examples of the movement's cultish behaviors, including self-immolation, which have alarmed many observers. Finally, she proves beyond doubt that the Chinese government has overreacted by engaging in horrific human rights abuses against a fairly innocuous movement that actually has a sympathetic following within the Chinese leadership. Recommended for general readers and public libraries.-Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Rockville, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This volume investigates a religious movement from a political scientist's perspective. Falun Gong, which first emerged on the world stage in 1999, has since caused controversy wherever it is practiced. The Chinese government condemns the movement as a Western-influenced doomsday cult. Chang (political science, Univ. of Nevada, Reno) presents this movement in the historical context of China's many secret political/religious societies. She discusses the beliefs in cosmology, karma, reincarnation, UFOs, and the coming end of the world. As China reacts to this religious group and as the group reacts in return, one will see the future history of the religious and the political in China emerge. This book, which is carefully balanced and clearly written, will appeal to both the specialist and novice. Chang has produced an ideal volume to educate the academic and general public about this crucial movement. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers. L. L. Lam-Easton California State University, Northridge