Zhong Gong
Zhong Gong, founded in China in 1988, is one of the most
popular of the qigong groups operating in the Peoples Republic
of China through the 1990s. By the end of the decade it was
estimated to have 20 million followers. However, in 1999, in
the wake of the crackdown on the Falun Gong group, it was
also singled out for repressive measures. The Chinese government
declared that the meditation-exercise sect was an ‘‘evil
cult.’’
Zhong Gong, the China Health Care and Wisdom Enhancement
Gong, was founded by Zhang Hongbao (b. 1955) during
the heyday of government support for qigong. In spite of its
operating apart from the officially sanctioned National Qigong
Association, Zhong Gong speedily spread across the country. It
was also favorably mentioned in the official press. Its training
school in Shaanxi Province had over 2,000 students. Reportedly,
the country’s president, Jiang Zemin, had sought out a
Zhong Gong Master to treat his arthritis and back pain.
Zhang Hongbao taught a traditional form of qigong that
emphasized the use of exercises and meditation as a means of
stimulating qi energy. Such energy, once properly flowing
through the body, would bring health and enhanced mental
functioning.
Through the 1990s, the group had some minor run-ins with
authorities and became known as an independent organization
apart from government control, though no ideological elements
appeared to contradict government authority (as with
Falun Gong). However, in December of 1999, police closed the
Zhong Gong training facility in Shaanxi. Then in January of
2000, the leader of the group in Zhejiang Province was sentenced
to two years for the Chinese equivalent of practicing
medicine without a license, a charge potentially placing all qigong
groups at risk. The government has charged that following
qigong has been accompanied with admonitions to stop
seeing medical doctors.
In the wake of the move against Zhong Gong, the government
announced broad changes in regulations dealing with qigong
groups specifying how they must be organized and what
teachings they may espouse. The ongoing issues concerning
Zhong Gong and other qigong groups are being covered in the
press and monitored by various human rights groups.
Sources
Eckholm, Erik. ‘‘China Imprisons a Leader of Healing-byMeditation
Society.’’ New York Times (January 20, 2000).