Among the Believers

On weekday mornings Kery Wilkie Nunez does her Falun Gong exercises with two or three commuters next to a subway station outside Washington. The buzz from the nearby highway and the bustle of the rushing crowds don't phase her. "You become peaceful and tranquil inside," says NuNez. Steven Reani does his exercises early morning near a deserted shopping mall in the capital, except on weekends when he, along with dozens of other practitioners, heads to the vast green lawn of the city's Mall.

With its slow-motion calisthenics and Buddhist philosophical bedrock, Falun Gong seems incontrovertibly Chinese. But the...

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