The China Quarterly



Research Article

The Life and Times of Li Hongzhi: Falun Gong and Religious Biography a


Benjamin  Penny 

Abstract

When the suppression of the falun gong started in July 1999, one of the targets of the government's propaganda was the biography of Li Hongzhi, its founder and leader. This article examines two versions of a biography of Li Hongzhi published by the falun gong in 1993 and 1994 that are no longer available. This biography presents Li as possessing superhuman abilities and god-like insight. In my analysis, I place this biography in the context of a centuries-old tradition of religious biography in China showing that, in textual terms, it represents a contemporary example of that venerable genre. As with its precursors, this biography seeks to establish a genealogy of the figure whose life is recorded and to buttress the orthodoxy of his doctrine.



Footnotes

a I am indebted to the National Library of Australia for a Harold White Research Fellowship that enabled me to do this research.