Biography: how reliable?

Published 28 Mar 2017

Biography from the Greek word “bios”, which means life and “graphein” for write, is a form of literature that tackles the life of certain person.This is to give importance for significant persons who have done something to be known of. A biography is not just a simple discussion of profiles. It also contains relevant events that contributed to whom the person it became. It also discusses how one done something to its society or to the people around him. It’s not simply analyzing the impersonal facts, but also things why someone become such. It also analyzes and interprets significant event of one’s life. We make arguments and interpretations about the person’s achievements and accomplishments. Usually, biographies are for famous people in different fields and aspects.

Biography doesn’t always mean the truth. It basically sometimes depends on the writer. There are some biographies made just to make the person involved to be credible enough. Take the instance of some religious groups. We can think that biographies are made to tell their supporters on what they have done. They put things and sources that could possibly make someone believe to what they are offering. They can tell lies, and they can tell truths. Somehow, the reader may not trace if the information that was given was true. On the other hand, the purpose of biography for religious group is not mainly for negative thing. As said, it can be either for knowing things and an opportunity for the supporters on whom to believe. This may serve as a path for them to trace and acknowledge persons that deserves to be one.

Specifically, Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun gong, in China, has several biographies and has done such sin. Dated July 22, 1999, Li Hongzhi was arrested due to illegal changed of biography. He has been accused for falsifications of certain documents. This has been used to change his identity in order to be credible by his fellow supporters. As reported, many have died, mentally disordered as well, being a result of obsession with “Falun Gong.” It also resulted into different problems with regards to health and some financial problems with the people involved.

Li introduced “Falun Gong” as a system of cultivating body and mind, but realistically, it was kind of cult that manipulate people’s mind and body so that he can easily handle them and for the expansion of the organization. Some may ask why he has done this. But it’s just one thing- for money. Li earned more than enough money for teaching people of practicing and engaging with Falun Gong. Then when he saw that many were interested with Falun Gong, he changed his way of collecting money. He treated deceased people as by “exerting his potential of healing”. He founded “Falun Dafa” and “Falun Gong”. But we all know that way of cheating will not last. That was the time when he chose to change his own profile. He changed his date and place of birth. He changed everything in him, even the schools he attended and even the events in his life. For this, the people would merely believe that he was the reincarnation of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism (and also to fit the Chinese lunar calendar which was believed to be the birthday of Sakyamuni).

Based here, Li used his biography for illegal purposes. So, basically, we cannot rely on biographies for us to know a person. This may contain ideas and information that are not mostly true. Such information pushes us to believe in a certain something, probably with ideas that were not quite proven and there just exist a man who’ll tell us to believe what he feed us. This case basically implies that sometimes, biographies are not that credible because it only tells something that we are not able to see. Things like this need more supporting proofs to make them be credible. Words are not that enough to describe a person. Sometimes, we need to find reasons why we have to believe something. We need to evaluate things before we engage onto that. However, judgment will be based on the readers and the acceptor of the ideas.


  • Li Honzhi,, August 09,2007
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