(Clearwisdom.net) July 15 is a special day for Falun Gong practitioners in Qiqihar City, Heilongjiang Province. On this day 18 years ago, in 1993, Master Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong, came to Qiqihar and taught the Fa in person. On that day, we stepped onto the path of returning to our true selves after being long lost in this boundless cosmos. Despite all the obstacles and tribulations, most of us have remained steadfast in walking the broad and blessed way of genuine cultivation over the last 18 years, with ever deepening understandings of Master Li's teachings.

As yet another July 15 arrives, we are reminded of the time when Teacher came to our city to teach Falun Dafa for the first time. Teacher's compassionate, welcoming voice and appearance still remain vivid in our memories, and our hearts overflow with gratitude for all he has done for us.

The following pictures show group exercise practices in Qiqihar City before the persecution began in July 1999.

Commemorating the Past

On July 15, 1993 Teacher gave his first lecture in Heilongjiang Province at the Cultural Center of the Electric Enterprises located in the city center. Over the course of the nine day lecture series, he personally taught us the Falun Gong exercises and corrected our exercise movements where necessary.

About 400 people attended the lecture series. Over the following year, about 2,000 people in the local area began to practice Falun Gong.

The Falun Gong exercise music could soon be heard in every street and park in Qiqihar City, as people were seen attending group exercise practices in the city and surrounding areas. People were impressed by Falun Gong's healing effects, the teachings based on becoming better people, and the practice's fast growing popularity.

Many people who did other types of qigong practice switched to practicing Falun Gong upon seeing its extraordinary power. Many people from the local communist government, the army, and elites of high social status also began to practice Falun Gong. The yearly experience sharing conferences of practitioners were attended by not only practitioners, but also by local communist officials, who were astounded by the power of Dafa witnessed by the practitioners.

Perceiving the Principles of Dafa

As we learned Falun Dafa, the mysteries of cultivation were unveiled to us, and we came to understand that we had found what we had been seeking all along. Falun Dafa brought us into the realm of genuine cultivation and our excitement was indescribable.

By practicing Falun Gong, we recovered from our chronic diseases and regained our health. In our work, we stopped fighting others for personal interests. In dealing with other people, we put others before ourselves and let go of our selfishness, jealousy, and the desire to prevail over others. With Dafa, we let go of our mundane attachments and eliminated our karma. Gradually we ascended in our cultivation levels on the path of finding our true, original selves.

Twelve years have elapsed since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began its persecution of Falun Gong. More than 20 local practitioners have been killed in the persecution, but we were never overwhelmed by the persecutors and we are still firmly walking the path of validating the Fa and saving sentient beings. We fully understand our mission in the Fa rectification period and have done the three things well by closely cooperating with each other. Besides cultivating ourselves by constantly looking inside and letting go of our human attachments, we devote ourselves to Fa validation projects, including setting up material sites, distributing truth clarification materials, urging people to do the three withdrawals and telling people the facts about Falun Gong over the phone. Under Teacher's compassionate protection we have broken through many tribulations and passed many formidable tests. By sending forth righteous thoughts we learned to rely on the divine power that Dafa bestows upon us to eliminate evil elements in other dimensions, and the persecution in this mundane dimension.

Gratitude to Teacher

Looking back on the past 18 years of cultivation, everyone of us has many different things to say, but all of us share one thing in common--gratitude to Teacher for having taught us Falun Dafa.

On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the dissemination of Falun Gong in Qiqihar City we, all Falun Gong practitioners from Qiqihar City, salute Teacher. With this article we demonstrate to the world's people the greatness of Teacher and the great power of Dafa.

We will repay Teacher's compassionate salvation by continuing to do the three things well.