Falun Gong is a system of meditation exercises, termed qigong, introduced by Li Hongzhi in 1992. Falun Gong, translated as Practice of the Wheel of Law, grew quickly after its public introduction and is also known as Falun Dafa. In 1999 the Chinese government suppressed Falun Gong in response to hugely growing numbers and large peaceful demonstrations by Falun Gong practitioners.
In 1992 Li Hongzhi introduced Falun Gong at the Fifth Middle School in China. A system of qigong, Falun Gong is a cultivation practice associated with Buddhism. The foundation of Falun Gong is dharma, the doctrine and discipline of Buddhism. The Falun Gong core principles are truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. Qigong systems teach breathing techniques and meditation.
In Falun Gong, practitioners are required to enforce strict meditation and must abide by truth, compassion, and endurance in all of their actions. Falun Gong, using evidence they believe does not fit into modern anthropology, teaches that humankind has endured several cycles of civilization.
Its teachings emphasize not belief but rational understanding. To pray or hope for things is considered futile action. Lust, homosexuality, and other practices considered of low morals in Falun Gong are believed to hinder the cultivation process.
According to its beliefs there are five important sets of exercises that include meditation: four standing exercises and one sitting exercise that strengthen the mind and the body. It also believes that karma is the cause of disease and that only by letting go of earthly attachments can one prevent and cure disease. Additionally, in Falun Gong the Wheel of Law (the Falun) must be installed in the abdomen through meditation. Once installed, this Falun turns continuously.
By the late 1990s, Falun Gong, spread by the Internet, had gained followers all over the world. Controversy over its beliefs led to protests by believers in 1998, during which some practitioners were arrested. According to Falun Gong reports, the police beat some of the protesters. On July 20, 1999, the Chinese government began attempts to suppress the movement, concerned about its growth.
Books and Web sites related to Falun Gong were suppressed, and the movement was declared illegal in China. However, the movement continues to claim followers in more than 80 countries, where governmental reactions range from acceptance to suspicion. One estimate projects their membership to be around 70 million people.