Li Hongzhi

Li Hongzhi

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Li Hongzhi is the founder and spiritual master of Falun Gong
Falun Gong
Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline first introduced in China in 1992 by its founder, Li Hongzhi, through public lectures. It combines the practice of meditation and slow-moving qigong exercises with the moral philosophy...

 (or Falun Dafa), a "system of mind-body
Mind-body
Mind-body may refer to:* Mind-body connection, a medical model* Mind-body dichotomy, a philosophy of mind* Mind-body exercise, a form of exercise that combines body movement with mental focus* Mind-body intervention, an alternative medicine...

 cultivation" in the qigong
Qigong
Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation...

tradition. Li Hongzhi introduced Falun Gong on 13 May 1992 in Changchun
Changchun
Changchun is the capital and largest city of Jilin province, located in the northeast of the People's Republic of China, in the center of the Songliao Plain. It is administered as a sub-provincial city with a population of 7,677,089 at the 2010 census under its jurisdiction, including counties and...

, and subsequently gave lectures and taught Falun Gong exercises across China. The movement gained significant popularity in the 1990s, but was suppressed by the Chinese government in 1999.

Accounts of Li's early life differ between detractors and supporters. Official Chinese sources say that Li was an ordinary army grain clerk and trumpet player, while the Falun Gong text Zhuan Falun says that Li was trained by a Buddhist and Taoist masters from childhood and possessed extraordinary powers. Falun Gong's teachings are compiled from Li's lectures, and Li holds definitional power in that belief system. Li moved to the United States in 1996 and continues to teach the practice.

Early life


There are competing accounts of Li's life that surfaced before and after Falun Gong was banned in July 1999. David Ownby believes that both accounts should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. In Falun Gong and the future of China, Ownby said that Li Hongzhi was born Li Lai, on 27 July 1952, and that his parents divorced whilst he was a toddler. The biography in China Falun Gong (1992) states that Li was "completely poverty-stricken" with his mother "relying on a wage of some 30 yuan to bring up the whole family" The 1994 edition of Zhuan Falun states that Li was born into a "white-collar", "ordinary intellectual" family.

Chinese authorities say that Li studied at primary and junior high middle schools in Changchun
Changchun
Changchun is the capital and largest city of Jilin province, located in the northeast of the People's Republic of China, in the center of the Songliao Plain. It is administered as a sub-provincial city with a population of 7,677,089 at the 2010 census under its jurisdiction, including counties and...

 between 1960 and 1969. Growing up during the Cultural revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, Li's formal education was adversely affected. According to the Chinese government biography, Li held "a series of unremarkable jobs": between 1970 and 1972, Li worked at an army stud farm; from 1972 to 1978, was a trumpet player in a forest police unit in Jilin Province, and then served as an attendant at a hotel attached to the same unit. From 1982 to 1991 he worked at the security department of the Changchun Cereals Company.

Li says that he was born on 13 May 1951 in Gongzhuling
Gongzhuling
-Administrative Divisions:Subdistricts:*Dongsan Subdistrict , Tiebei Subdistrict , Tiedong Subdistrict , Henan Subdistrict , Hebei Subdistrict Towns:...

, Jilin province. The Chinese authorities say that he was born on 7 July 1952. In 1994, he fell out with a faction in Changchun which wanted to open a clinic where they would presumably hold their own fee-charging workshops but was rebuffed by Li, and its members were expelled from the movement. This group would send a three-volume report to several government ministries in late 1994, denouncing Li and Falun Gong and saying that Li had no superpowers and was unable to cure people — including the first time allegation that Li had altered his birthdate to that of Sakyamuni. Falun Gong replied to the various recipients in detail on 2 February 1995. In 1999, the Chinese government once again asserted that he modified his birth date, citing a Changchun Public Security Bureau document dated 24 September 1994, whereby Li formally altered his birthday. Li rejected the accusation as a "smear", and asserted that his recorded birth date of 7 July 1952 was just one of the pervasive bureaucratic errors during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

.
In the end of 1999, a Hong Kong World News reporter paid a visit to the Changchun Public Security Bureau to investigate and confirmed that Mr. Li Hongzhi had changed back to his correct birth date.
After the reporter's visit, one policemen was fired and twenty-one policemen were punished in Changchun Public Security Bureau in January 2000.
He denied that he saw any particular significance to it, saying "Many criminals were also born on that date. I have never said that I am Sakyamuni." In the book Zhuan Falun Fajie published in 1997, people can find following question and answer: "Question: Who were you in your previous life? Teacher: I’m just Li Hongzhi. By no means am I Buddha Shakyamuni."

Spiritual biography


Li says that his human life is of no particular importance to his teachings, and the biography that appeared as an appendix to the Falun Dafa text Zhuan Falun focuses only on spiritual aspects, displaying similarities to biographies of other qigong masters and men who claimed to be holy in Chinese history. According to the Zhuan Falun biography, Li Hongzhi had been taught ways of "cultivation practice" (xiulian) by several Masters of the Dao
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

and the Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 disciplines of thought from a very young age. At four, he was trained by Quan Jue, the Tenth Heir to the Great Law of the Buddha School. By age eight, he had acquired "the superb great law with supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 powers", which was supposed to include invisibility, levitation, etc. Li also became compassionate and developed an altruistic moral code. Master Quan left him at age twelve, to be replaced by Taoist master Baji Zhenren.

A third Master arrived in 1972 from the Great Way School with the Taoist (alias of True Taoist, Zhendaozi), who had come from the Changbai Mountains
Changbai Mountains
The Changbai Mountain Range or Jangbaek Mountain Range are a mountain range on the border between China and North Korea...

 near the North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

n border. The True Taoist taught Li the way of inner cultivation through Qigong
Qigong
Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation...

, stressing xinxing (i.e. "mind or heart nature, moral character"). Due to the Cultural Revolution, Li only practiced Qigong at night. A fourth Master - a woman from the Buddha School - trained Li after the True Taoist's departure in 1974. After training with these four Masters, Li's "energy potency had reached a very high level." The biography goes on to state that he has received training from over twenty masters in his lifetime and that "Some of his supernatural powers are difficult for ordinary people to imagine or understand."

In Zhuan Falun, Li further claims 'miracles' he performed that while practising with disciples in 1990. For example, he was able to push away stormy weather and hold off rain for the whole duration of the practice session, and "half an hour" afterwards. His personal development plateaued around this time, with the biography stating that Li was able "to see the truth of the universe, many more beautiful things which have existed there for a long time, as well as the origin, development and future of mankind."

After Falun Gong's ban in mainland China in 1999, new editions of Falun Gong's books no longer contain biographies of Li. These changes seem to reflect a larger trend of Li retreating from the public eye. Since 2000 he has very rarely appeared in public, his presence almost entirely being electronic or re-routed through quotations on Falun Gong's websites. Li Hongzhi's biography were removed from Falun Gong websites some time after 2001.

Falun Gong



According to Zhuan Falun, Falun Gong's system was developed between 1984 and 1989 after years of synthesis from general Qigong principles and advice from Masters of numerous religious and spiritual schools. It claims to have "assembled all the mystical powers, which are the essence of the whole cosmos."

Li Hongzhi introduced Falun Dafa, or the Great Law of the Wheel of Dharma, on 13 May 1992 at the fifth Middle School in Changchun, Jilin. From 1992 to 1994 he traveled throughout China, giving lectures and teaching Falun Gong exercises; His following grew rapidly. Li's success was largely linked to the huge popularity enjoyed by Qigong in the late 1980s and early 1990s under Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

's social liberalization. He differentiated Falun Gong by prioritising "accessibility to the public" and moral content, away from esoteric notions often found in other Qigong systems.

Falun Gong's teachings are compiled from Li's lectures, and he holds definitional power in the Falun Gong belief system. Li was also critical of alternative systems within the Qigong movement, stating it was "rife with false teachings and greedy and fraudulent 'masters'" and set out to rectify it. Li said that Falun Gong was a part of a "centuries-old tradition of cultivation," and in his texts would often attack those who taught "incorrect, deviant, or heterodox ways." Li differentiated Falun Gong from other movements in Qigong by emphasizing moral values aimed to "purify one's heart and attain spiritual salvation." rather than what he saw as undue emphasis on physical health and the development of supernatural powers.
Ian Johnson points out that during the greatest period of Falun Gong book sales in China, Li Hongzhi never received any royalties because all publications were bootleg. Li's success also had a large part to do with people seeking effective alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

 treatments at a time when China's health care system was struggling desperately to meet demand. As the Master of the Falun Gong cultivation system, Li claimed to "purify the students' bodies" and "unblock their main and collateral channels" and in doing so "remove the root of their disease," if they were ill. He also reputedly planted a Falun or "law wheel" in the abdomen of each student, and other "energy mechanisms" in other parts of their bodies. Li also described how his "Law bodies" will protect each practitioner and how he "clear[s] up the students' house and places of practice and then put[s] a covering of safety'".

According to Falun Gong groups, Li's success was recognized at the 1992 and 1993 Beijing Oriental Health Expo, where he gave three lectures instead of one due to popular demand, and received numerous "special awards". In March 1995, Li Hongzhi arrived in France at the invitation of China's ambassador there, beginning seven days of lectures in Paris. This was followed in May by a lecture series in Sweden. Li has lived in the United States since 1998.


Life abroad


On 10 May 1999, Li gave an interview with Time, during which he stated that "human moral values are no longer good" and reiterated Falun Gong's differentiation from other Qigong groups. He also expounded on the "Dharma-ending period" and claimed the existence of aliens were corrupting human beings. He avoided questions about his personal background, stating, "I don't wish to talk about myself at a higher level. People wouldn't understand it."

On 29 July 1999, after Falun Gong was banned, the Chinese government levelled a series of charges against Li, including the charge of "disturbing public order." At that time, Li Hongzhi was living in the United States. The Chinese government's request to Interpol
Interpol
Interpol, whose full name is the International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, is an organization facilitating international police cooperation...

 for his arrest was rejected on the grounds that the request was a matter "of a political or religious character" and lacked information on any "ordinary law crime he would have committed" The Chinese government also revoked his passport, preventing him from traveling internationally.

Li Hongzhi has received awards and proclamations in a number of countries. These include certificates of recognition from several governmental bodies in the United States - including Honorary Citizenship awarded by The State of Georgia and city of Atlanta. In 14 March 2001, The Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 bestowed Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong with an International Religious Freedom Award for the advancement of religious and spiritual freedom at a ceremony in the United States Senate. In the same year, Li was ranked the most powerful communicator in Asia by Asiaweek
Asiaweek
Asiaweek, the English edition, was a news magazine focusing on Asia, published weekly by Asiaweek Limited, a subsidiary of Time Inc. Based in Hong Kong, it was established in 1975, and ceased publication with its December 7, 2001 issue due to a "downturn in the advertising market," according to...

magazine "for his power to inspire, to mobilize people and to spook Beijing."

An attempt to nominate Li Hongzhi for the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

in 2001 by Bay Area legislators was withdrawn after they were notified of Falun Gong's views on homosexuality.

External links


Li Hongzhi's teachings

Interviews