Falun Gong: The End of Days
By Maria Hsia Chang
Yale University Press, 2004, 208 pp.
This is an excellent introduction not only to the beliefs and practices of the Falun Gong, but also to the long history of secret societies and millenarian movements in China. Chang believes that Westerners tend to belittle the movement when they suggest that it consists of not much more than harmless group exercise. She details the efforts of the Chinese state to suppress the Falun Gong and spells out the cosmology of the movement's founder and master, Li Hongzhi, and its roots in Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The core idea-that the end of the human race is near-is hard for Westerners to take seriously. But Chang gets past this problem by laying out the Falun Gong's belief system as an anthropologist would. Her review of the history of secret societies in China, meanwhile, makes clear why the government takes the movement so seriously.