This article seeks to place Falun Gong - and the larger qigong movement from which it emerged - into the long-term context of the history of Chinese popular religion from the midMing (1368-1644) to the present. The argument developed is that Falun Gong and qigong are twentieth-century elaborations of a set of historical popular religious traditions generally labeled by scholars as "White Lotus Sectarianism." This article attempts both to look forward at the Falun Gong from a perspective informed by an understanding of its historical antecedents, and to look backward at the historical traditions on the basis of what we know about Falun Gong and qigong. The ultimate objective is to arrive at a recharacterization of a popular religious phenomenon which has been incompletely understood.

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