NEW YORK—People walking the streets of midtown Manhattan on Saturday were met with the unusual sight of a large-scale and very colorful parade. A booming marching band of over 100 players was followed by women in traditional Chinese costumes, a pair of swirling dragons and lions, all followed by a procession of over 4,000 participants. Though some bystanders may not have heard of the parade’s theme, Falun Dafa, a traditional Chinese exercise and meditation practice, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s really beautiful, all the color,” said Khalil Aziz, a 13 year-old student on a school field trip from Maryland. Aziz was watching the parade with a group of his fellow students who echoed his sentiment.
“[They’re] celebrating truthfulness, compassion, forbearance,” noted 12 year-old Chante Parks. Parks was referring to the guiding principles of Falun Dafa depicted on many banners displayed in different languages throughout the parade.
Falun Dafa is an ancient mind-body meditation practice that was made public in China in 1992, and has since spread to more than 80 countries. The parade on Saturday was a large-scale procession that included Falun Dafa practitioners from all over the world. Countries represented included Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Taiwan, Israel, Japan, and many others.
Angela Comacho, a third grade teacher, said if she had known about the parade earlier she would have brought her students.
The parade was divided into several sections, led by a depiction of Falun Dafa’s spread around the world. Participants in the international section included people holding banners with messages in their countries’ respective languages.
The procession also included bright flags emblazoned with the words “Falun Dafa” in Chinese characters. Many people wore ethnic costumes, or traditional yellow Chinese outfits. A truck decorated with lotus flowers and a demonstration of the Falun Dafa meditation exercises finished out the section. The lotus flower is culturally significant in China for its connection to pursuing spiritual enlightenment.
The parade also shed another light on the history of Falun Dafa. The Chinese Communist Party has persecuted the practice since 1999. According to Faluninfo.net, a website that tracks the ongoing persecution in China, “The Falun Dafa Information Center has confirmed the deaths of over 3,000 Falun Gong adherents as a direct result of the persecution campaign that the Chinese Communist Party launched in 1999.”
“It’s important to participate in the parade to raise awareness,” said Thomas, a parade participant who came with a group of 50 other Falun Dafa pracitioners from Sweden. Others were planning to send a message back to China about the day’s event.
“Lots of my friends are in China and I want to share with them how appreciated Falun Dafa is in the U.S., and that it has spread in many countries,” said Jun Zeng, 38, who came from Pittsburg to watch the parade with his young daughter while his wife participated.