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Discordant Notes

Journal of Australian Studies 88
Bart Ziino Who Owns Gallipoli? Australia's Gallipoli Anxieties 1915-2005, Sue Lovell, 'Dew to the Soul': One Australian Artist's Response to War, Peter Kirkpatrick Hunting the Wild Reciter: Elocution and the Art of Recitation, Felicity Plunkett 'You Make Me a Dot in the Nowhere': Textual Encounters in the Australian Immigration Story (the Fourth Chapter), Bridget Griffen-Foley From the Murrumbidgee to Mamma Lena: Foreign Language Broadcasting on Australian Commercial Radio, Part I, Emily Pollnitz ...
Wednesday, 30th July 2014
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API Review of Books

Altitude BirdIssue 44
Features reviews by Kathleen Broderick, Linn Miller, Christine Choo, Bill Thorpe, David Ritter, Eve Vincent, Stephanie Bishop, Alison Miles, Richard Kay, Amanda Day, Bernard Whimpress, Mads Clausen, Marion May Campbell, Sylvia Alston, Catie Gilchrist, Eva Chapman, Lucy Dougan, Stephen Lawrence and Nathanael O'Reilly. Click here for more details.


Altitude BirdPopular Music: Practices, Formations and Change - Australian Perspectives
The papers collected here in this special edition of Altitude offer a brief snapshot of popular music research broadly connected with Australia. The essays demonstrate the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches used by researchers in the fields of popular music studies and cultural studies to explore themes of popular music practice, formation and change in an Australian context. Click here for more details.


Falun Gong: The End of Days

By Maria Hsia Chang, Carlton North: Scribe Publications, 2004, 188 pages, paperback, $25.00. Reviewed by Anna Hayes in the February 2006 issue.

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At the recent China Studies Association of Australia Conference in Bendigo, Yu Haiqing explored media representations of the 'threat of Falun Gong' to both Chinese nationals and the state. She concluded that the persecution of Falun Gong is directly attributed to the perceived threat posed by the sect to the Chinese Communist Party. In Falun Gong: The End of Days Chang, a political scientist, begins by outlining the historical tradition whereby secret societies have been able to stage uprisings and overthrow the body politic. In fact, Chang's accounts of the impact the various millenarian movements have had on China's political landscape are the true strength of the work as they clearly identify the reasons behind the CCP's fear of the sect.

Easily accessible, Chang's work is not only an accurate overview of the underlying tenets of Falun Gong, including the sect's beliefs, practices and journey since its foundation in 1992. It also clearly identifies both the political and religious elements of the sect, directly contradicting the claims of Li Hongzhi (Falun Gong's founder), that the sect is nothing more than a health and exercise movement. In support of this claim Chang cites the 1999 protest outside of Zhongnanhai, the CCP's headquarters, as well as the numerous protests that have since occurred in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere. These examples indicate that the sect has a definite political agenda or at the very least they have become politicised by these actions. Furthermore, the hijacking of television transmissions by Falun Gong practioners to beam their message throughout China is also recognised by Chang as an example of politicised expression.

Chang argues that because Falun Gong involves 'a set of metaphysical convictions that include supernatural beings and an afterlife' (p 61) it qualifies as a religion. And while at present Falun Gong is loosely organised and therefore lacking the 'form' that Li Hongzhi insists is necessary for a religion, Chang states that Li has hinted that in the future Falun Gong will become more structured and may be managed by 'monks' and 'professional disciples'. In addition, Chang shows how Falun Gong's beliefs and practices demonstrate clear links to past sectarian religious societies such as the Eight Trigrams and the White Lotus, and that Master Li's teachings are a somewhat 'eclectic blending of Buddhism, Daoism, classical folk religion, and magic', as well as contemporary touches 'via references to science and UFOs'. (p 61)

Another significant aspect of the book is Chang's discussion of the claim that 'it takes a cult to know a cult'. (p 130) Here she dissects arguments the CCP has used against Falun Gong and concludes that 'by its own definition of evil cult, the CCP qualifies as one'. (p 130) To support her argument she recalls the Maoist years and states that Mao ruled China as a demi-god, the 'Little Red Book' was akin to a holy scripture and that Mao attempted to destroy old ideas and culture by whipping the Chinese masses into a 'frenzy of recrimination and destruction'. (p 131) Chang also makes the comparison that like Falun Gong, which has been blamed for the deaths of numerous followers, the cult of Mao was responsible for the taking of human life. She puts that figure at 45-72 million. Thus, in addition to being anti-science and superstitious, she argues that Maoism was harmful to Chinese society.

I found this book informative and hard to put down. Chang's work incorporates much more than an examination of the sect of Falun Gong and its relationship to China. By examining the historical experiences of millenarian movements in China, Chang offers valid reasons why the CCP is so threatened by Falun Gong and why they have made such brutal attempts to suppress it. As a result this book will appeal to political scientists and Sinophiles alike.


  • Anna Hayes. 'Review: Falun Gong: The End of Days by Maria Hsia Chang' [online]. Network Review of Books (Perth, Australian Public Intellectual Network), February 2006. Availability: <please cite the web address here> ISSN 1833-0932. [accessed 30 July 2014].

Back Cover Blurb

  • The world first took notice of a religious group called Falun Gong on April 25, 1999, when more than 10,000 of its followers protested before the Chinese Communist headquarters in Beijing. Falun Gong investigates events in the wake of the demonstration: Beijing's condemnation of the group as a Western, anti-Chinese force and doomsday cult, the sect's continued defiance, and the nationwide campaign that resulted in the incarceration and torture of many Falun Gong faithful.

    Maria Hsia Chang discusses the Falun Gong's beliefs, including their ideas on cosmology, humanity's origin, karma, reincarnation, UFOs and the coming apocalypse. She balances an account of the Chinese government's case against the sect with an evaluation of the credibility of those accusations. Describing China's long history of secret societies that initiated powerful uprisings and sometimes overthrew dynasties, she explains the Chinese government's brutal treatment of the sect. And she concludes with a chronicle of the ongoing persecution of religious groups in China - of which Falun Gong is only one of many - and the social conditions that breed the popular discontent and alienation that spawn religious millenarianism

Have You Also Read?

  • Kisch in Australia: the untold story

    imageHeidi Zogbaum, Carlton North: Scribe Publications, 2004, 230 Pages, Paperback, $26.95
    Reviewed by Rowan Cahill in the December 2004 issue.

    In November 1934 the Czech journalist, author, communist and anti-fascist activist Egon Erwin Kisch, literally leapt into the pages of Australian history. Kisch had been invited to Australia to address meetings organised by the Melbourne branch of the Movement Against War and Fascism. The conservative Lyons government, keeping faith with its electoral pledge to destroy communism, contrived to prevent Kisch entering Australia and cynically resorted to the Immigration Act to implement a political ban. Newly appointed Attorney-General Robert Menzies handled the matter. Kisch was multilingual. German and Czech were his principal languages; he wrote and published in German, was fluent in ... read more.

Network Review of Books

Scribe Publications

  • Scribe is an independent Australian book publishing company, founded by Henry Rosenbloom in 1976. It specialises in quality fiction and serious non-fiction, with a particular emphasis on politics and current affairs, biography and history, environmental and social issues, and psychology and philosophy.

NRB February 2006

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