Do you have a question or concern about Dragon Springs?
You’re probably not alone. Over the years, a combination of misunderstandings, cultural differences, and erroneous media coverage have given rise to a few concerns in our community. Therefore, we put together the following Q&A to address the most common questions we’ve heard over the years.
Frequently asked questions...
Who started Dragon Springs and why?
Dragon Springs was started by people who practice Falun Gong, which is a Buddhist-based spiritual practice that teaches people to live by three principles: integrity (真), compassion (善), and tolerance (忍).
Falun Gong was widely popular in China throughout the 1990s. In fact, a Chinese government survey conducted in 1998 found there were 70-100 million people doing the practice. Because it was so popular, the communist regime effectively banned the practice in 1999, and launched a nationwide campaign to stamp out Falun Gong by any means necessary. State-run media flooded the country with fabricated reports aimed at demonizing the practice, and much of this false narrative was picked up by Western press and spread around the world. For the last 23 years, anyone who practices or supports Falun Gong in China is subject to imprisonment, forced labor, and/or torture. Thousands have died from torture. Human rights lawyers and researchers have confirmed that Falun Gong detainees have been killed “on a large scale” so their vital organs can be extracted and used to fuel a booming organ transplant business in China. You can read more about these terrible crimes here, or watch videos about them here.
In the spirit of our American forebears, Falun Gong practitioners fled persecution in their homeland and established a new life for themselves here in Deerpark at the site of Dragon Springs. Although starting with almost nothing, through hard work and faith, they have built not only a home for themselves, but also a world class arts and cultural center through which they can share the beauty and depth of authentic Chinese culture with the world. You can read more about the annual global tour here.
Is Dragon Springs a “secretive compound?”
To many of us who’ve done work at Dragon Springs, we find this idea of “secretive” silly. Every day, there are delivery trucks, service, and maintenance companies, etc. passing through or working on site. Teachers and staff commute daily to work on site. Parents of students are often here picking up or dropping off their kids. In other words, it’s very much like any other boarding school or college campus you might find across the country.
As for it being a “compound,” we find this term also very misleading. Dragon Springs is a Buddhist-style temple as well as the campus of a High School and College that focuses on traditional Chinese arts. The schools are accredited by the New York State Education Department, the New York Board of Regents, and the New England Commission of Higher Education – the same accreditation institution that accredits Harvard, Yale, and many other prestigious universities around the U.S.
The temple area is built in the style of China’s Tang Dynasty, which is widely considered the peak of Chinese civilization.
The blending of this architecture into the natural landscape makes for a breathtaking scene, and one can often see students and faculty alike strolling through the grounds, performing exercises outside, or simply gathered among the many outdoor rotundas for study and socializing.
There are no big walls surrounding the campus. Students, faculty, and staff come and go freely, again, much like any other college.
Why security at the gates?
Like many colleges and educational institutions throughout the U.S., Dragon Springs does have security guards at the gates (no, they do not patrol the gates with AK-47s or any other guns as some of the more exaggerated rumors have proclaimed). There is, however, a very important reason for the security.
For those of us who have done some work at Dragon Springs, we have learned that almost every Chinese person there has a story from China: a mother that was killed, a brother that is imprisoned. Some had been, themselves, tortured in jails and labor camps. What is particularly surprising is that many of these folks continue to receive threats even today, in America. Some have even been assaulted on U.S. soil by Chinese government thugs. The people at Dragon Springs explain that the gates are primarily in place to protect people from these agents hired by the Chinese regime, who have, in fact, tried many times to enter the site. And it’s not just acts of violence they have to worry about. Many who live or work at Dragon Springs have family back in China. If they are identified by Chinese agents as being at Dragon Springs, it puts their families back in China at great risk. It is common for Chinese police to threaten, harass, or even imprison family in China of those abroad who speak freely about the crimes of the communist regime.
What many people don’t realize is that the communist regime of China has made a top priority to marginalize, intimidate, and silence Falun Gong communities around the world, and Dragon Springs is named specifically as a “high priority” target. The reasons for this are tragic and somewhat complicated, so you can read more about it here. However, the bottom line is that Dragon Springs must protect itself from threats and danger posed by the largest communist regime in the world. That’s not something to be taken lightly, especially given the fact that there are children and young adults on campus.
Does Dragon Springs negatively impact the environment?
There have been some accusations that the Dragon Springs site has polluted a nearby river. Repeated testing and inspections by state agencies have shown, however, this is not true. Dragon Springs operates a modern wastewater treatment plant that includes a UV unit that eliminates any coliform presence. The system is regularly tested for the NY DEC. Furthermore, the treated water is released into the ground. No wastewater is discharged into the river. Dragon Springs also operates an industry-standard stormwater system and is regularly inspected by relevant state agencies.
Unfortunately, the accusations about alleged river pollution stems almost entirely from an organization with overt and clear ties to communist China. In other words, it’s pretty clear the Chinese communist regime is influencing and/or funding people to target Dragon Springs using environmental attacks as the weapon of choice. You can read more about these groups and the link to communist China here, with an update to the story here.
Is there excessive building at Dragon Springs?
As some of us who have done work at Dragon Springs can attest to, the opposite is true. Dragon Springs sits on more than 400 acres of land: only 17% of that land has been developed, with the remainder being maintained as natural woodland. Furthermore, aside from a few religious education buildings, the architecture of the core temple area is built following the Tang ideal: blending the manmade with the natural. It’s a wonderful harmony between the buildings and the landscape.
Additionally, construction at Dragon Springs follows industry-standard procedures, including obtaining building permits from the town, inspections from town and state agencies, and certifications from licensed architects and engineers.
Is the Dragon Springs community "insular"; and not really part of the broader community?
If you look at the Falun Gong folks who have moved into the area over the last 20 years, counted among them have been Rotary Club members, volunteer fire fighters, school teachers, etc. Some have opened small businesses in the area, such as restaurants.
Each year, Falun Gong people are a mainstay of local town events such as the Christmas parades, and National Night Out events. Notably, each fall, Falun Gong volunteers hold a grand "Moon Festival" in Mt. Hope or Deerpark, attracting thousands from around the area, and raising over $20,000 for the local fire department. During the holidays, they host a Christmas Market and Holiday Wonderland event that is free to the public.
Falun Gong volunteers have also frequently spearheaded donation drives, garbage clean-ups, and meal deliveries throughout the area. In particular, they delivered medical masks to key front-line heroes, such as care-givers, police, etc. throughout the pandemic.
Why can’t I visit Dragon Springs?
From our experience, this question is perhaps the one that pains the folks at Dragon Springs the most. Time and time again, they tell us how eagerly they look forward to the day when they can open their site to the public. This has always been and remains one of Dragon Springs' primary goals. So, what’s stopping them? Two things: (1) Development has progressed more slowly than they had hoped, and so they still don’t have all the facilities built that they would need to open to the public. They are working hard to get there! (2) The on-going persecution of people who practice Falun Gong in China and the communist regime’s rampant use of agents here in the U.S. to silence, threaten, and attack dissidents makes it difficult. We can see, however, that everyone at Dragon Springs remains optimistic that the construction can be finished, and efforts of governments and human rights workers around the world will help put an end to the persecution. On that happy day, we’re told that Dragon Springs will gladly open its gates to all!
Are the news reports about Dragon Springs accurate?
When the persecution of Falun Gong first started, most journalists, including those stationed in Beijing, knew nothing about Falun Gong. Unfortunately, into this void China’s state-run media poured a barrage of propaganda. These false reports were picked up by many news agencies in the U.S. and throughout the West mostly because they did not have any other sources to draw from. Subsequent news reports often draw from these flawed initial reports, thereby acting as a repeater of the communist regime’s lies about Falun Gong. Over the years, this problem has worsened as most major media companies are now owned by high net-worth individuals or companies with significant business ties to China. The end result is that when we read the news reports about Dragon Springs, we often find them describing something that is nothing like the Dragon Springs we’ve come to know.
The Chinese regime says they are a “cult.” Is there any truth to this?
Let's keep in mind this is the same regime that calls Tibet's Dalai Lama a "tyrant" and the democratic island of Taiwan a "renegade province." They are not exactly big on truth.
Since the communist party seized power in China in 1949, it has systematically targeted any group whose belief system challenged communist ideology. The regime does this with the goal of instilling Marxism in people so they will revere only the communist party. Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and others have been systematically suppressed, often violently, by the Chinese communist regime.
Unlike 20th century China that was somewhat isolated from the world and could persecute its own people with relative impunity, when the regime ordered that Falun Gong be “eliminated” in 1999, China had partially opened itself to the international community to draw in foreign investments. Foreign journalists and businesses were in major Chinese cities. The regime knew it couldn’t just imprison and kill a group of people en masse without the international community taking notice. It needed an excuse to give to the world for its suppression of Falun Gong, and so it built a narrative around the lie that Falun Gong was a ‘cult’ and sold it to the international community.
This is all the more tragic given the fact that Falun Gong is the very opposite of a cult. There are thousands of personal accounts of how the practice empowers the individual spirit and helps bring families and communities together. One thing our friends at Dragon Springs remind us of is that Falun Gong is always taught for free, everywhere around the world. Its books and instructional videos are available for free online. You never have to pay a penny nor sign up for any organization if you want to start practicing.
You can read more about this false ‘cult’ label here.
Some U.S. news reports say they are “far right.” Is there any truth to this?
Even a cursory glance at the beliefs of Falun Gong practitioners, or a casual acquaintance with those who practice, demonstrates this is false. Yet, in recent years, this label has been repeated, sometimes from reputable news organizations. Why? It mostly stems from the growing popularity of the Epoch Times newspaper, which some consider to be right-leaning or even “far right.” Because this newspaper was founded by people who practice Falun Gong, critics make the mistake of characterizing the editorial direction of the Epoch Times as “in line with” or even directed by Falun Gong beliefs. We have found this is not true because among Falun Gong practitioners, like with most religious groups, you will find conservatives, centrists, and liberals. What is more, there are 100 million people practicing Falun Gong around the world, with the majority found in China or Taiwan. Certainly, a vast number of these people have no knowledge of nor interest in American political leanings, be they left or right.
Here is a short video that explores this question in more depth.