A Brief History of Falun Dafa
Today, Falun Dafa is practiced in over 100 countries around the globe by people of all ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds. The book Zhuan Falun, its main book of teachings, has now been translated into 49 languages (and counting).
Yet, many of the biggest waves in our world start as small ripples, and Falun Dafa was no different. The first Falun Dafa class, held at a middle school in northeastern China, had only around 180 attendees—the size of an introductory college lecture.
Little did these learners know that they would become the first members of a spiritual movement, perhaps the greatest of our time.
Mr. Li Hongzhi gives a lecture in Wuhan City, China, in March of 1993.(Minghui.org)
The First Lecture in Changchun
May 13, 1992, was Mr. Li Hongzhi's 41st birthday. It was also the day that he decided to introduce a new qigong practice to the public, which he named "Falun Gong."
Falun Gong derives from the Buddhist and Taoist teachings that Mr. Li learned from several masters, and combines the core values of these traditional self-cultivation practices. However, in adapting these teachings for Falun Gong, Mr. Li took care to ensure that this practice would fit the rhythm of a modern lifestyle—where most people organized their daily lives around their jobs, families, school work and other social activities.
He preserved the Buddhist and Taoist principles he learned and paired them with simple, meditative exercises. These would become the three principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance, as well as the five sets of exercises that characterize Falun Dafa today.
A Falun Gong group practice site at a park in Beijing. Practitioners would often start their day with a quick practice session before school or work.(Minghui.org)
The first Falun Gong lecture series was held at Changchun Fifth Junior High from May 13 to May 22, 1992. The 10-day event in Mr. Li's hometown was hosted by the Changchun Human Body Research Society and garnered roughly 180 attendees. Word soon began to spread about the amazing efficacy of Falun Gong in improving both physical and mental health, from family to family and friend to friend.
Mr. Li held a second lecture series in Changchun before being invited to Beijing for two more series. Soon, he was receiving invitations from qigong societies and governmental bodies across China.
By December of 1994, he had completed 56 lecture series in some of China's biggest cities for 61,500 attendees, including repeats. Without repeats, the number of students was about 20,000.
The Makings of a Nine-Day Lecture
Mr. Li's lecture series usually lasted nine to ten consecutive days. Each day, he would give a lecture that lasted around 90 minutes and then instruct learners in the exercises for 30 minutes. On the last day of the series, he'd dedicate some time for learners to ask questions about anything they didn't understand.
The lectures expounded upon the moral cultivation aspect of Falun Gong, from the cosmological basis for morality to how practitioners could become better people in daily life. To help modern people understand the arcane terms used in self-cultivation, Mr. Li would use the natural sciences and cultural allusions to illustrate his points.
Falun Gong lecture series were priced very modestly, compared to those of many other qigong schools. Each series only cost around 40 to 50 yuan per person, which is roughly $15 to $20 today.
Much of that money went towards renting the venue, printing materials, and paying the sponsoring organizations—Mr. Li hardly kept any of it. Some sponsoring organizations asked Mr. Li to raise his ticket prices since his classes were so popular, but he refused to put extra financial burden on his learners.
Throughout all of Mr. Li's travels across China, he lived quite frugally. One staff member recalled that he rarely even went to restaurants. Most of the time, his meals were instant noodles that he brought for himself.
Expansion in China and Around the World
Though Mr. Li would give his last lecture in China in 1994, Falun Gong continued to spread among the Chinese people. According to the Public Security Bureau of China, an estimated 70 to 100 million Chinese people were practicing Falun Gong as of 1999.
In 1995, Mr. Li would begin to give lectures outside of China. His first lecture series overseas was held in Paris, France, from March 13 to 19, and was hosted by the Chinese Embassy. The same year, he gave his second lecture series outside of China in Gothenburg, Sweden. Lasting from April 14 to 20, this would be the last time that Mr. Li taught Falun Gong to the public. But by then, word of the practice had already spread across Europe and to the rest of the world.
According to available statistics compiled by Minghui.org, Falun Dafa practitioners live in over 100 countries and country-level administrative regions around the world today. This includes 46 countries and regions in Europe, 31 in Asia, 22 in the Americas, 12 countries in Africa, and 3 countries in Oceania—all a testament to how the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance can bring people together regardless of the color of their skin, the sound of their language, or the paths they've walked in life.