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Enlightened Martyrdom

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When it became evident that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was on the verge of banning the Falun Gong movement, Li Hongzhi, the movement’s founder, and his family escaped China, relocating permanently in the United States. Subsequently, the dramatic crackdown on Falun Gong in 1999 made international headlines. From the safety of his new home, Master Li encouraged his followers left behind in the PRC to vigorously demonstrate against the Chinese government, even if it meant imprisonment or even death.

Further, Master Li actively discourages his followers from telling outsiders about his esoteric teachings; rather, he explicitly directs them to say that Falun Gong is just a peaceful spiritual exercise group being persecuted by the PRC. Not only has Falun Gong succeeded in propagating their side of the story in the media but the group will vigorously protest any news story that disagrees with their point of view. In more recent years, Falun Gong has attempted to silence critical scholars, including two of the contributors to the present volume.

Enlightened Martyrdom: The Hidden Side of Falun Gong provides a comprehensive overview of Falun Gong: the movement’s background, history, beliefs and practices. But whereas prior treatments have generally tended to downplay Falun Gong’s ‘dark side,’ in Enlightened Martyrdom, we have made an effort to include treatments of the less palatable aspects of this movement.

Published: Oct 10, 2019

Section Chapter Authors
Introduction James Lewis, Huang Chao
Chapter 1
The Religion and Politics of Falun Gong Junpeng Li
Chapter 2
The Doctrine of Li Hongzhi: Falun Gong - Between Sectarianism and Universal Salvation David Palmer
Chapter 3
From Spiritual Healing to Protest: Falun Gong's Emerging Culture of Martyrdom Susan Palmer
Chapter 4
Burning Faith: Interpreting the 1.23 Incident James Lewis
Chapter 5
Devil Killing and the Essence of Falun Gong Fang Yong
Chapter 6
The Self-contradictions in Li Hongzhi's Statements about Illness Yan Cao
Chapter 7
Scientific or Anti-scientific: A Critical Analysis of "Science" Discourses in Falun Gong Wang Chengjun
Chapter 8
“You Don’t Want to Have That Kind of Thought in Your Mind”: Li Hongzhi, Aliens, and Science Stefano Bigliardi
Chapter 9
Falun Gong's Attack on Academic Freedom Helen Farley
Chapter 10
Friendly Fire: How Falun Gong Mistook Me for an Enemy Heather Kavan
Chapter 11
The Falun Gong Political Narative: Creating the Illusion of So-called "Forced Organ Harvesting" Campbell Fraser
Chapter 12
"Clarifying the Truth": Falun Gong's Media Strategies James Lewis
End Matter
Index James Lewis, Huang Chao


Except for a few terms, Enlightened Martyrdom can be a fairly accessible reader for college students who may be religious studies majors. The readership may include anyone who is interested in FLG or new religious movements. The 9-page “Introduction” provides a good summary of each chapter as well as the whole book.
As in the fable of the blind men and the elephant,
Enlightened Martyrdom presents some other aspects of the FLG elephant. The fact that FLG is at once a new religious movement and a highly political organization makes it extremely complicated and difficult to explore. In the long run, however, with each new aspect being examined, we may move one step closer to the “truth” of Falun Gong.
Nova Religio