The Spread of Falun Dafa in Shuangcheng City (Part 1)
Shuangcheng is a very ordinary small city situated southwest of Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang Province. In May 1994, a qigong exercise called Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) was quietly introduced to the city, helping people heal their illnesses as well as elevate their moral standards. Over the past 17 years this small city in Northeast China has witnessed a remarkable period in history.
Invited by the Changchun City Qigong Science Institute, Mr. Li Hongzhi held the seventh Falun Gong class at Mingfang Palace Auditorium, Jilin University, Changchun City, from April 29 to May 8, 1994. Among those in attendance were five qigong enthusiasts from Shuangcheng City and more than 1,000 others.
After completing the class, the five new Falun Gong practitioners eagerly returned home. At the time, they did not know that their trip would bring great changes to their hometown and the surrounding districts and counties.
2. From Qigong to Cultivation
The first Falun Gong practice site in Shuangcheng was in the courtyard of the former Shuangcheng City People's Government in May 1994. At the time there were only about a dozen or so practitioners in the city.
When more and more people came to the practice site, the location was moved to Shuangcheng City People's Stadium (Also temporarily serving as practice sites were The Illuminated Basketball Court, the TV Broadcasting University and the courtyard of the Farm Machinery Bureau.) By the end of July 1994, there were about 300 practitioners.
The first Falun Gong practice site in Shuangcheng City, Heilongjiang Province: the Courtyard of the former Shuangcheng City People's Government
Practitioners from Shuangcheng City practicing Falun Gong in the morning at the Illuminated Basketball Court.
As word spread of the miracles of Falun Gong in healing illnesses and improving health, the dozen or so practitioners became 300 practitioners in a short span of 100 days. By practicing the five sets of very simple exercises, practitioners who had suffered lingering illnesses for many years became illness-free and felt very light. Even those who had been declared incurable by the hospital came back from the verge of death. Falun Gong is truly wonderful!
A city resident had been diagnosed by the Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University and Harbin City Workers' Sanatorium with myocarditis, annex inflammation, pneumonia, lung pressure, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. She came to learn Falun Gong at a time when she had lost her ability to work. Not long after, she fully recovered from all her illnesses and became the main breadwinner for the family.
Cases like this were very common among practitioners in the city. Almost every practitioner could tell you about the great changes that happened to them after having learned Falun Gong. Later, these cases of miraculous healing as well as others were compiled into a booklet entitled "A Survey of 100 Cases of the Physical and Mental Benefits of Practicing Falun Gong in Shuangcheng City.” The booklet was printed by the city's Party Committee printing office.
At the invitation of Harbin's Qigong Science Research Institute, Mr. Li Hongzhi held an eight-day Falun Gong class in Feichi Hockey Stadium in Harbin from August 5 to 12. Among the 4,500 people who attended the class, more than 400 were from Shuangcheng. Most of them were ordinary residents. They came from all walks of life, such as workers, farmers, and university students. A small number of them were employed in local government. Several leaders from the city government also attended the class on the recommendations of their relatives.
Throughout the eight-day class, the majority from Shaungcheng traveled to Harbin each day, while a small minority stayed in Harbin. Some went by train, but even more by bus. They listened to Teacher Li's lectures from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and then were taught the exercises.
Ticket for the Falun Gong class at Feichi Hockey Stadium in Harbin. A practitioner from Shuangcheng City saved the ticket.
A student certificate saved by a Shuangcheng Falun Gong practitioner
As he gave the classes, the noble character and demeanor of the founder of Falun Gong Mr. Li Hongzhi, left an unforgettable impression on the students. "Teacher looks very young with his white shirt. His shirt looks so neat." "Teacher is always on time. He always walks in ten minutes before the start of class and sits at the table five minutes before the class. It's like that every day." "Five minutes before the class many students would ask for Teacher's autograph or shake hands with Teacher. I sat very close to Teacher..."
Almost every student who attended the Falun Gong class could tell you stories about something that left a deep impression on them. As years went by, the students who had listened to Teacher's lectures in August 1994 came to understand that what they had learned was the Dafa of the cosmos. Every time they read the paragraph in Zhuan Falun that says, "I would say, honestly... you will realize in the future that this period of time is extremely precious. Of course, we believe in predestined relationship. Everyone sits here all because of a predestined relationship," an indescribable joy and gratitude would well up from the bottom of their hearts!
Practitioners in Shuangcheng studying the Fa together before the persecution began on July 20, 1999
Over the course of the eight-day classes in Harbin, students shared stories with each other, in great admiration for what they had witnessed:
I went there by car from my job so I arrived very early. Every day I saw Teacher enter the venue. When Teacher purified students' bodies several at a time, Teacher would ask the students to close their eyes. But at first I did not close my eyes, and Teacher shouted one, two, three and then told us to stamp our foot. All of a sudden my celestial eye saw a big fireball come down from the sky. A bit startled, I instantly closed my eyes.
A practitioner came to the hockey stadium before the class started on August 5, but all the tickets were sold out. The practitioner then saw a tall young man get out of a car. He thought the man was Teacher Li, so he went up to him and asked, "Are you Teacher Li? I traveled from Xi'an to learn Falun Gong, but I can't get a ticket." Teacher said to him, "Just wait here, you can certainly buy a ticket!" Teacher then went inside. The practitioner sat on a pile of wood and waited. When the sound of applause came from the stadium, he figured the class was starting and began to get worried. Then he saw someone come out of the stadium. The person looked around and then went back inside. This practitioner did not take much notice of it and reminded himself that Teacher Li had asked him to wait. Not long after, though, the person came out again and went back in after looking around. When this person came out for the third time, the practitioner went up to him and asked, "What is it?" That person said, "I've got a ticket for someone else, but he didn't show up." The practitioner who had been waiting for a ticket said, "Please sell that ticket to me!" In the end, the practitioner got his ticket just as Teacher told him.
The eight-day class in Harbin came to an end on the evening of August 12. Before it finished, Teacher Li came down from the platform and walked around the stadium to meet with his students. Wherever he went, the students would spontaneously stand up and clap their hands. After circling the stadium, Teacher Li went up to the platform again and read an approval notice that he had been given by city practitioners for setting up the Shuangcheng Falun Gong Assistance Center. Then Teacher presented two banners, one to the practitioners from Harbin and another to those from Shuangcheng.
Mr. Li Hongzhi presented this banner to practitioners from Shuangcheng City.
The banner was custom-made in the early days of the China Falun Gong Research Institute. At one point, the banner was hung at our practice site. It was later on display at the Second Falun Dafa Embroidery, Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition. Since July 20, 1999, the banner has been kept safe by a practitioner in Shuangcheng.
In the eight months from April 29 to December 29, 1994, Teacher took on the burden of holding five Falun Gong classes in Changchun, Dalian, Harbin, Yanji, and Guangzhou. Practitioners from Shuangcheng were in each of the five classes.
By the early months of 1995, the number of practitioners in Shuangcheng had reached 500 to 600.
The practitioners of Shuangcheng City doing the group exercises in winter, before the persecution began on July 20, 1999
At practice sites big or small, practitioners all took their cassette players to the site, hung a banner, and played the exercise music. One or two practitioners who guarded the practice site would explain to passersby about the changes the practitioners had experienced after practicing Falun Gong, as well as introduce a little about Falun Gong. From time to time, they would also correct the movements of practitioners who were doing the exercises.
Falun Gong practitioners in Shuangcheng doing the exercises in front of the State Taxation Administration, before July 20, 1999
Falun Gong Practitioners in Shuangcheng doing the exercises at the Trade Center, before July 20, 1999
Falun Gong practitioners in Shuangcheng doing the exercises at the Xi Gate Exercise Site, before July 20, 1999
Falun Gong Practitioners in Shuangcheng doing the exercises at the Dong Gate Exercise Site, before July 20, 1999
The Shuangcheng Assistant Center was established in August 1994, and was one of the first three Falun Gong assistant centers established in Heilongjiang Province. The Qiqihar Assistant Center (established in July 1993) and the Harbin Temporary Coordination Center (established in August 1994) were the other two.
Although they were called “assistant centers,” there was no office, member list, money collection, or materials—not even the basic infrastructure required by typical organizations. The sites' purpose was to offer a connection for practitioners from other cities to keep in touch, and, more importantly, to provide connections among local practitioners.
Although most practitioners didn't have a clear understanding of traditional cultivation culture and remained at the level of healing illness and keeping fit, a common phenomenon occurred, whereby the practitioners' moral standards improved after reading the book Falun Gong!
People observed long-absent traits in these quiet practitioners: Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. These characteristics deeply moved people and changed practitioners rapidly.
Most of the Shuangcheng citizens who learned Falun Gong experienced major changes, both physically and spiritually. Here are some examples:
One person didn't get along well with her husband's family and fought with them frequently. She hated them so much that she planned to find a foster family for her daughter after she grew a little older, then eliminate her husband's whole family. Fortunately, she learned Falun Gong. She was enlightened by the precept: “Do not fight back when punched or insulted.” She kept Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance in her mind and treated her husband's family well, without complaint or resentment. Gradually, her family became harmonious. Many of her relatives and friends were surprised to hear about this change, and came to visit her to find out what had happened.
Another person loved to play Mahjong, a domino-like game played by many Chinese that includes betting. After learning Falun Gong, he understood that practitioners shouldn't gamble, and quit playing Mahjong. One day, he found ten thousand yuan (about $1,600 USD) while cleaning a hotel room. He returned the money to the owner and refused the owner's offer of a reward.
One person was not only lazy, but also liked to take advantage of others. Although she was an adult, she never helped out her parents. Her relationship with her mother was very tense. When a cashier happened to miscalculate and gave her extra change, she never returned the money. Falun Gong's law of “no loss, no gain” awakened her and she changed into a completely different person. She helped her parents with the housework and developed a good relationship with her mother. Once when a vendor gave her extra change, she returned the money.
Another person had a dispute with his village's officer. He wanted to practice martial arts in order to beat up that officer. However, he began to learn about Falun Gong. After reading Falun Gong, he let go of his hatred and got along well with the officer.
These stories of moral improvement mushroomed among Falun Gong practitioners, and some are still being spread. Some were collected in the “Surveys of the Health Status and Spiritual Civilization Status of One Hundred Falun Dafa Practitioners in Shuangcheng" (“One Hundred Surveys”), published by the Shuangcheng Falun Gong Assistant Center in January 1999.
The citizens of Shuangcheng were amazed by Falun Gong in 1994, due to the miraculous effect of healing illness and keeping people fit, and even more so in 1995, when they were astonished by the great forbearance and kind deeds demonstrated by practitioners after their moral enhancement. Their serious diseases were all healed after practicing Falun Gong; they quit all their bad habits after reading Falun Gong. Practicing Falun Gong made illnesses disappear. Studying Falun Gong made families harmonious! Falun Gong didn't ask for a single penny from anyone who came to learn, and veteran practitioners taught the exercises for free, so why not learn and practice this miraculous exercise? Soon, more and more honest citizens started practicing Falun Gong.
Falun Gong practitioners in Shuangcheng doing group exercises at the Dong Gate Exercise Site, before July 20, 1999
Falun Gong practitioners in Shuangcheng doing the exercises in front of the Trade Center, before July 20, 1999
Before Falun Gong came to Shuangcheng, there were several other qigong practices that were popular in the city. The public's understanding of qigong was limited to that of healing illness and keeping fit. Their initial understanding of Falun Gong was that qigong was related to the exercises in the Buddhist school, which had a positive effect on physical well-being.
China's traditional, semi-divine culture has a long history of people cultivating the Buddha or Tao, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used the Marxist theory to destroy cultivation practice. People nowadays have no idea of the meaning of “cultivation.”
Though Teacher Li Hongzhi mentioned “cultivation” several times during his lectures in Harbin, most of the Shuangsheng practitioners' interests weren't initially on cultivation practice. Although they may have heard of it, they had a shallow understanding and were unaware of its profound connotation. Beginning on May 1, 1995, assistants at each exercise site started to organize practitioners to read Falun Gong together after their one-hour morning exercise, and practitioners began to change their notions. Later, the morning exercise and group study were separated. Practitioners did group exercises in the morning and then group study of Zhuan Falun in the evening. The group study sites were mostly public facilities, such as schools, business conference rooms, or other quiet places. Occasionally, they were held at practitioners' homes. Through systemic studying and sharing, practitioners finally realized that the Falun Gong that they were practicing was not a simple qigong exercise at all, but the cosmic law – Falun Dafa cultivation. Studying the Fa, doing the exercises, and cultivating xinxing was actually cultivation practice.
Practitioners in Shuangcheng at a group Fa study site, before July 20, 1999
3. The Spread of Dafa
In June 1995, the Harbin Coordination Center provided the Shuangcheng Assistant Center with a set of videotapes of Teacher Li Hongzhi's Fa lectures. These precious Fa lectures were initially played only at the exercise sites in the city. A lay Buddhist-turned Dafa practitioner in a village said to a Shuangcheng assistant, “There is no line between the urban and rural areas when promoting the Buddha Fa!” These words awakened the assistants!
From July 1995 through July 1999, the practitioners who had benefited from cultivating Falun Dafa had a glorious journey in promoting Dafa in Shuangcheng, its affiliated towns and townships, and neighboring counties. Practitioners identified several types of Fa promotion:
A group of two to three practitioners carried a VCR to villages, then showed Teacher's Fa lectures and taught people the exercises; visiting relatives and friends in villages shared their personal experiences of the physical and spiritual changes after cultivating Dafa; sharing Dafa to farmers with a large-scale (over a hundred people) group exercise demonstration at the village market.
One practitioner bought three VCRs with his own money—approximately 6,000 yuan. Another practitioner spent over 3,000 yuan to buy an imported VCR (of better quality). Diligent practitioners carried Teacher's Fa lecture videos to different towns and villages to play them for new students.
Teacher's nine-day Fa lectures were played over the course of nine days. After playing the video, practitioners then taught the exercises. At first, they often stayed in the village. Later, many of them rode bikes from home every day. They traveled from town to town, village to village, and set up exercise sites and Fa study sites at each location. Falun Dafa spread rapidly throughout Shuangcheng's 28 towns and counties, as well as in the villages within those towns and counties.
For many years, the memories have remained vivid for many practitioners who traveled to villages in order to play the Dafa videos. One practitioner recalled:
“… It was a winter day. I went to a village with a fellow practitioner to play Teacher's Fa lecture. It was after 10 p.m. before we started our return home. There was a big snowstorm, but we had to ride our bikes on the road. The freezing air and snow kept hitting our faces. It was painful and we could barely open our eyes. Our breath froze immediately on our hats. The strong headwind forced us to barely move forward. We then pushed our bikes, but we didn't feel tired or fatigued, rather, we felt fulfilled and happy because some people had just joined the cultivation practice! We were happy to suffer even more hardship. Promoting Dafa is a compelling responsibility for each and every practitioner.”
A practitioner recalled Dafa spreading in Shuangcheng:
“I was told that people weren't aware of Falun Dafa at the beginning. When practitioners went to rural areas to show Teacher's lecture videos, they had to carry a DVD player, food, and water. Then they had to return to the city the same day. The next day, they returned to continue the lecture videos. All this helped people learn about Falun Gong, and more and more people started practicing it. They all welcomed practitioners and invited them for dinner at their house and they didn't like to have practitioners turn down their invitation.
“Several months into the practice, fellow practitioners and I traveled for many miles to a rural area to promote the Fa and returned the same night. We went on a bike and didn't feel tired after biking all those miles! My family said, 'Falun Gong is truly amazing! Amazing!' In the past I was of weak constitution and my entire body ached. When my brain tumor recurred, I had unbearable pain. I often carried emergency heart medication with me, as I often developed unpleasant symptoms when anything unusual came my way. After practicing Falun Gong, I returned to good health. Therefore, my family was very supportive whenever I went to promote Falun Dafa.
“We frequently biked to rural areas. Sometimes it rained or turned windy when we were midway. In winter, the road was very slippery. However, nothing stopped us from spreading Dafa! We were always happy and filled with energy. When invited to someone's home we offered 2 yuan, which they didn't accept. So, when we returned there we brought dry noodles and other kinds of food.”
A second practitioner also recalled Dafa spreading in Shuangcheng:
“During harvest season, we didn't promote Dafa during the day, but helped with the farm work and at night, we played Teacher's lecture videos. Therefore, they didn't need to hire a farm worker, which cost 40 yuan a day.
“Everyone agreed that Dafa was truly wonderful. They were very grateful to Dafa and treated us very well and, although they were not wealthy, they served us great food.
“We enlightened that we couldn't take advantage because they were grateful for Falun Dafa. Therefore, we thought that we had to decide what was best for them. If we ate, we would not eat egg, meat, or fish. In addition, we insisted on paying for what we ate.”
Another practitioner gives witness to past history:
“In 1997, there was a group of young practitioners who went to every village to spread Dafa. Because more and more people wanted to learn, we needed Dafa materials. These young people had good enlightenment and improved their xinxing rapidly. Some donated money to buy Dafa books, exercise tapes, Fa lecture DVDs, and so on, which they gave to these rural practitioners. Others lent their motorcycle to practitioners who traveled to rural areas.
“By November, we had established over 30 practice sites. There were a total over 400 practitioners. In the morning, practitioners practiced the exercises. At night, the young practitioners played Teacher's Fa lecture video. They returned home after 11 p.m. daily and never complained.”
Spreading Dafa was not limited to playing Fa lecture videos, but also through word of mouth among family and friends.
One practitioner from Shuangcheng took along Falun Dafa books when visiting his relative in a rural area. His relative had back problems, so he told him, “If you practice the exercises and read the book Zhuan Falun, you will have no more back problems.” Although not so certain about the outcome, his relative listened to him. Sure enough, he no longer had back problems after doing the exercises. He wanted to learn Falun Gong and asked the practitioner to teach him. He told his relative that he had to return to the city, but “You can find several others to practice with you.”
This relative found another villager who had practiced another form of qigong before. At the beginning, this villager didn't want to give up his qigong practice. He then told this villager, “I will leave this book. Please read it. You can decide if this practice is something for you.” Within ten days, this villager chose Falun Gong. At the same time, he brought more than ten people into the practice. With the help of local practitioners, they first listened to the Fa lecture tapes and then learned the exercises. Finally, they established the first group practice site in that village.
Prior to July 20, 1999, practitioners in Shuangcheng held a group practice.
Of all the Dafa promoting activities, the most unforgettable memory is the scene of group practice by over 100 practitioners.
A practitioner from the rural area recalled:
“In December of 1997, we went to the local market and held a group practice to promote Dafa. Market day was held every ten days. Every market day, we set up banners and posters and brought flyers in the early morning. While we were waiting for other practitioners to arrive, we introduced Dafa over the loudspeaker and then played the exercise music. Suddenly, the site became peaceful and quiet. Practitioners did the five exercises. Many people stopped by to look at the banner and read our introductory materials. Practitioners introduced Dafa and spoke of its benefits.
During April and May of 1998, all practitioners from 14 villages decided to get involved in the Dafa spreading activities. Several hundred practitioners held group practices in nearby villages. Several young practitioners rode their motorcycle in front of the group. The motorbikes were fit with loudspeakers and posters. Behind the motorbikes were practitioners on bikes or horse carts, and practitioners followed them on foot. Among the group were seniors in their 70s and small children as young as three years old. On arriving in a village, we put up posters and introduced Dafa over the speaker. The villagers were so happy to see us. They spread the news, “Falun Gong is coming! Falun Gong is coming!” We were welcomed and supported by villagers. When our speaker and electric transformer needed to be charged, villagers volunteered to help. Sometimes we used the broadcast system used by the village committee. In early 1999, we changed to the band speaker system, and the sound was truly amazing!
What amazed me the most were the senior practitioners. They walked to three or four villages because they hadn't learned to ride a bike. They walked many miles in one day! It was very cold in winter. When we practiced the exercises outdoors, we only wore a pair of thin cotton gloves. Some did not even own gloves. People who saw this said, “Falun Gong is truly wonderful!”
In 1999, we held three large-scale group practices to promote the Fa. The last time was on July 21. Several hundred practitioners participated. Because the Chinese Communists Party (CCP) had already begun the persecution of Falun Gong, we were surrounded by police and forced to disperse.
It is difficult to be accurate, but we estimate that we promoted the Fa in 70 locations and established 65 practice sites.
Prior to July 20, 1999, practitioners built the speaker system to promote Falun Dafa.
In the spring of 1999, there were over 300 practitioners in Shuangcheng Town. We visited another town to promote the practice. A fellow practitioner who owned a transport company provided us with five buses to take us to the towns. Five buses were not enough to carry all of us, so some rode their bikes and others used other means of transportation.
Scenes with hundreds of people practicing Falun Gong are really beyond words and very sacred! Villagers passing by stopped and watched, and our beautiful peaceful movements made a great impression. Seeing our golden banner saying “A Brief Introduction of Falun Gong,” their faces showed joy and wonder.
Fellow practitioners responsible for safeguarding the area talked to the villagers, explaining what Falun Gong was all about. They said that people regained physical health and their morals improved. One practitioner shared that, before practicing Falun Gong, she used to be deaf, and that after practicing, she was finally able to hear and speak.
Many villagers expressed their desire to learn Falun Gong. Fellow practitioners gave them copies of Zhuan Falun and other Dafa materials. They also gave villagers a big banner that they used prior to July 20, 1999.
One more practitioner spoke of past group practice:
“In the latter part of April 1999, because of the April 25 event, some Falun Gong practice sites were interfered with by government officials. Practitioners were not allowed to practice Falun Gong in front of businesses, government and other buildings. We had not yet established a practice site in a particular town. Luckily, we found a town official who was also a practitioner. He wrote a note and said, “If you should come across any problems holding group practice or spreading the Fa, show this note.”
On a nice day, the practitioner who owned a transportation company provided us with five big buses that could carry more than 300 people. That day we visited 23 villages. We did group practice at every village. Villagers came and watched the quiet and peaceful exercises, and we told them about Falun Gong. We gave copies of the main book of the practice, Zhuan Falun, to anyone who wanted to join the practice and helped that person get in touch with local practitioners. We asked those who didn't want to practice to return the book. At that time, Shuangcheng had established 28 Falun Gong practice sites!
Falun flag used for spreading the Fa before July 20, 1999
Template used to print messages to promote the Fa prior to July20, 1999
Prior to July 20, 1999 Shuangcheng practitioners' group practice
Prior to July 20, 1999 Shuangcheng practitioners' group practice
Prior to July 20, 1999 Shuangcheng practitioners' group practice
During that time, there were many practitioners wearing a Falun Gong button. Seeing the physical benefits from practicing Falun Gong, more and more people were attracted to Falun Gong while we were there.
Prior to July 20, 1999 Shuangcheng practitioners wearing Falun Gong buttons.
During the time of Dafa being spread in Shuangcheng, practitioners published a newsletter "Falun Dafa in Shuangcheng." In any public area, we were allowed to hang Falun Dafa flags and provide flyers about Falun Gong.
Prior to July 20, 1999, people of Shuangcheng studying Falun Dafa promotion boards
From July 1995 to July 1999, while spreading Falun Dafa throughout local villages and towns, Shuangcheng City in Heilongjiang Province was also responsible for spreading Dafa throughout nearby districts, counties, and cities. That was how the Shulan District in Jilin Province and the Weihe District in Shangzhi City heard about Dafa.
Lalin, Sanchahe, Caijiagou, Taolaizhao, Fuyu, and other Harbin suburbs regarded themselves as part of Shuangcheng early on. They were closely tied to Shuangcheng City, which was a counseling center for that area.
(To be continued)