In China, Spiritual Hunger, State Power Collide

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 25, 2004 | Go to article overview

In China, Spiritual Hunger, State Power Collide


Byline: John Derbyshire, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Eccentric religious sects present a non-trivial problem even for open societies. The early history of the Mormon Church illustrates this; so, more recently, have the People's Temple, Heaven's Gate, and Branch Davidian episodes.

Issues of public health and the welfare of minors may arise. So may matters of straightforward criminality: The black-racist Nation of Yahweh sect that plagued Miami in the late 1980s had, as its principal sacrament, the killing of an arbitrary white person. The fact that a sect may give us reasonable grounds for disapproval is reflected in our language by the existence of a pejorative word for such sects: "cult."

As Maria Hsia Chang demonstrates in "Falun Gong: The End of Days," in a social order of the imperial-despotic type the problem posed by passionate religious sects is much more acute. It is a central principle of such societies that "there can only be one sun in the sky." All citizens must at least pay lip service to the approved state dogmas while shunning all other belief systems. (Though in relaxed times, pure nihilism is also an acceptable outlook.)

To have citizens' attention distracted away from those principles that validate state power is dangerous. Thus apprised of the fact that a different account of reality is possible, citizens may begin to question the revealed truths that legitimate their rulers. Further, they may band together in communal worship, and a police state must regard all gatherings not under its control as antisocial.Hence Communist China's persecution of the Falun Gong sect. In this brief but surprisingly thorough account, the author, a political scientist, not only provides a history of Falun Gong from its founding in 1992, she places the sect in its social and historical context, and gives a fascinating description of its beliefs and practices.

These latter will seem very strange to a Western reader. No aspect of Chinese culture is more impenetrably Chinese than the doctrines of its religions. (Perhaps something similar is true for all cultures.) Try this, for example:

"By this time, the practitioner will have reached the state of 'Three Flowers Above the Head' (sanhua juding). Rotating clockwise or counterclockwise above the practitioner's head are three 'extraordinarily beautiful' flowers that include a lotus and two other flowers, all of which are not of 'our physical dimension.'

"Each flower is supported by a huge pole as thick as the diameter of the flower, reaching 'all the way to the top of Heaven.' 'You will be scared,' Li warns, 'if you can see them.' Fortunately, the flowers and the poles can be seen only by the third eye."

Uh-huh. Well, I myself was taught in childhood that it is bad manners to mock another person's religious beliefs. I suppose the doctrine of transubstantiation might seem pretty bizarre to a peasant in Gansu Province. There are, in any case, as the author describes, precedents for this sort of thing in Chinese mystical systems going back to the Bronze Age and before.

Other aspects of Falun Gong theology, like the multifold immensities of time and space it describes, and its cyclical theories of history, derive from Buddhism, present in China since the time of Christ. Yet others trace back to the sci-fi and UFO cults of the 1940s and 1950s: Space aliens came to Earth about 1900 to corrupt us with science, and lurk among us still, some of them actually inside our own bodies.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

In China, Spiritual Hunger, State Power Collide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.