A rhetorical analysis of Falungong in China: Inheritance of tradition, contemporary appeals, and challenge to the social order
This dissertation is a critical inquiry of Falungong's beliefs, practices, and influences. Attention to given to its inheritance of past tradition of Taoism and Buddhism, its contemporary cultural, moral and sociological appeals, and its challenge to the social order in contemporary China. Initially appearing to offer therapy to the socially disadvantaged, Falungong's influences reach into religion, sociology, political science, and medical anthropology. In order to understand the movement in the context of contemporary Chinese politics, the discussion is carried out against the backdrop of Chinese political culture.
This project is an interdisciplinary analysis that synthesizes scholarship on Chinese history, religion, political science, medical anthropology with rhetorical criticism and public argument as the main analytical tools. Li Hongzhi's writings and Falungong members' testimonies are analyzed in order to glean the cultural, political, and moral values behind their words. Editorials in the People's Daily, and the Chinese leadership's speeches and documents are also discussed extensively to illustrate how Falungong's argument with the Chinese leadership over human rights, and, in particular, freedom of belief is carried out discursively. Attempts are also made to draw out implied meanings and significance to uncover how historical, moral, and cultural forces influence and shape the Falungong phenomenon.
Chapter one provides an introduction of Falungong's beliefs and practices, its point of contention with the Chinese leadership, its organizational systems, and its cause of occurrence. Chapter two discusses how the movement inherits from and uses in a creative manner classical traditions in its contention with the Chinese leadership by tracing its roots in Taoism, Buddhism, and White Lotus. In chapter three, I uncover how Falungong and the Chinese leadership produce rhetorical discourses in a contemporary setting informed by their interpretations of disputed traditional values. In chapter four, I talk about Falungong's therapeutic role, its idealism, and its formation of critical consciousness in members, which constitute its contemporary sociological, cultural, and moral appeals. As this contemporary spiritual dissident movement is inherently linked to Chinese political culture, in chapter five, I explore the ideological foundations of the Chinese leadership through its rhetorical expression, as shaped by Marxist materialism, authoritarianism, and scientism. I contend that Falungong makes a distinct departure from these political values. In chapter six, I provide discussions on Falungong's contribution to humanism as a response to and a critique of Chinese communist political culture.
0326: Cultural anthropology