Part sci-fi, part political thriller, part good old highbrow literary fiction, I am Falun Gong tells the tale of two people intimately involved in the complex world of the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong. From their outright disdain, to grudging acceptance, to full-throated fanaticism, I am Falun Gong explores the complex and often dangerous situation surrounding the movement’s adherents and detractors in China and throughout the world. It is a work of importance in our particular time, as it deals with China’s ascension, the United States’ perceived decline, and, through a variety of voices and styles, the increasing fragmentation and subjective character of media.
Falun Gong was founded in 1992 by the charismatic Master Li Hongzhi and grew rapidly throughout the 1990s until it could claim as many as 70 million practitioners in China. With this great popularity came great scrutiny however, and in 1999 the Chinese Communist Party banned Falun Gong.
Notice of Falun Gong came to the West in early 2001 when several members lit themselves on fire during a demonstration in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The ritual self-immolation has been disputed by the group as an elaborate fabrication concocted by the Chinese Communist Party to discredit its members. This event is central to the novel.
I am Falun Gong is about rebellion and acquiescence. About lies and the truth and the ways each are shaped. It is about two people enveloped in the events that day: Tong Bai, a journalist who moves from being a government apparatchik working for The People’s Voice to a follower of the teachings of Falun Gong, and the mysterious Yu Tien, a young girl supposedly killed in the fire in Tiananmen. Most of all, it is a novel about the world today.