Every year, around May 13, you will find thousands of Falun Dafa practitioners openly meditating in New York City’s Manhattan and neighboring boroughs—very happy to show anyone who wants to learn the five exercises known as Falun Gong.

May 13 marks the day when the practice of Falun Dafa was introduced in China, in 1992. It spread quickly, and within a few years, there were an estimated 100 million people practicing.

Mainly spread by word of mouth, people were taking up the practice and talking about experiencing improved health, feeling more energetic, and recovering from physical ailments and chronic illnesses. 

There were countless stories of improved relationships, developing a calmer heart, and a clearer mind. Practitioners say this is in large part because the practice is based on cultivating three universal characteristics of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

For well over a decade, Falun Dafa practitioners have been gathering in New York City in the thousands, wearing bright yellow shirts and hats, and ultramarine blue jackets. They design colorful parades with floats carrying “heavenly beauties.” They wear traditional Chinese Han couture, have a marching band with a thundering sound, a team of sharp, older Chinese women comprising a cheerful waist-drum team, and many carry banners in a parade, peacefully asking for the persecution in China to end.

The persecution in China

The visiting Dafa practitioners reside in nations across the world. They are here to represent their home countries, while also calling attention to the horrors that are happening in China.

So while they are delighted to be in New York City, and spread cheerfulness and kindness wherever they go, there is also a lot of sadness for many of them.

That’s because, in China, no one can practice openly.

In 1999 the practice was banned because it was growing too large for the liking of the communist regime.

The regime in China began a campaign to senselessly persecute practitioners. For many it was a horrific nightmare, beaten in the streets, tortured in prison, and sent to labor camps sometimes for years. This is why you see elements of the parade in New York take a solemn tone. 

Among the celebrations of Falun Dafa Day around the world, there will be memorials to the thousands of dead practitioners and appeals to end the persecution in China. And yet, they still laugh, smile, and share their joy in practicing Falun Dafa.