Tzu Chi

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Tzu Chi
Tzu Chi.jpg
Tzu Chi's lotus Logo.
Monastery information
Full name Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation
Order Mahayana
Established 14 May 1966
Founder(s) Cheng Yen
Abbot Cheng Yen
Location Hualien, Taiwan
Other information

Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation (simplified Chinese: 慈济基金会; traditional Chinese: 慈濟基金會; pinyin: Cíjì Jījīnhuì; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chû-chè ki-kim-hōe) or Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟), literally "Compassionate Relief", is an international humanitarian organization and a non-governmental organization (NGO) with an international network of volunteers and employees that has been awarded a special consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.[1]

Tzu Chi volunteers and relief workers are mostly recognizable worldwide by their blue and white uniforms, often referred to as "blue angels" (Chinese: 蓝天白云, lántiān báiyún, lit. 'blue sky, white clouds') by themselves.

Tzu Chi Foundation has several sub-organizations, such as the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA), composed of professional medical personnel who travel overseas to volunteer their services in poor communities without access to medical care and during international disaster relief; and also the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association (慈濟大專青年) or Tzu Youth (慈少) in short. Their job includes the four missions of Tzu Chi, especially charity work. Their work also includes the promotion of vegetarianism and the awareness of world issues and environmental protection. The Foundation has built many hospitals and schools worldwide, including a network of medical facilities in Taiwan and an education system spanning from kindergarten through university and medical school. Schools were also rebuilt globally in the aftermath of earthquakes in Iran, China and Haiti. The organization maintains a small number of nuns, who are self-sufficient, including growing their own food. There are also a noteworthy group of employees that serve in various capacities across the organisation.


The Tzu Chi Foundation was founded as a charity organization with roots in Buddhist origins and beliefs due to poverty and the lack of services by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, a Buddhist nun, on 14 May 1966 in Hualien, Taiwan. She was inspired by her master and mentor, the late Venerable Master Yin Shun (印順導師, Yìn Shùn dǎoshī) a proponent of Humanistic Buddhism, who exhorted her to "work for Buddhism and for all sentient beings". The organisation began with a motto of "instructing the rich and saving the poor" as a group of thirty housewives who donated a small amount of money each day to care for needy families. The group has grown to become a civil society actor, with approximately 10 million members, and chapters in 47 countries[citation needed].

Four notable causes of Tzu Chi are Charity, Medicine, Education, and Humanity, as highlighted by the official motto, or concept of "Four endeavors, eight footprints" (Chinese: 四大志業,八大腳印). The eight footprints are charity causes, medical contributions, education development, humanities, international disaster assistance, bone-marrow donation, community volunteerism, and environmental protection.

The official website for the organization states that the organization started with Charity, and then extended its aims to include Medicine, Education and Culture. Its stated goal is to promote "sincerity, integrity, trust, and honesty".[2]


Consisting of a ship that also simultaneously bears the lotus fruit and flower, the Tzu Chi logo symbolizes that the world can be made a better place by planting good karmic seeds. Followers believe that these seeds are required for flowers bloom and bear fruit, which is a metaphor for their beliefs that a better society can be created with good actions and pure thoughts. The Ship represents Tzu Chi steering a ship of compassion, representing their goal in saving all beings that suffer, while the Eight Petals represent the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism, which Tzu Chi uses as their guide.

The Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. The Right Views
  2. The Right Thoughts
  3. The Right Speeches
  4. The Right Behaviors
  5. The Right Livelihood
  6. The Right Efforts
  7. The Right Mindfulness
  8. The Right Focus

It can also be seen that Tzu Chi people occasionally customizes their Buddhist eight precepts, such as warnings against jaywalking, smoking and drunk-driving for a safer and better world.

Global presence[edit]

Tzu Chi's headquarters are in Hualien County, Taiwan.


Tzu Chi's portfolios include case management, medical, educational and disaster relief.[3]

The organization builds and operates many hospitals and schools, with outreach efforts that range from visits to nursing homes to providing bone marrow surgery, as well as offering items such as washing machines to struggling single mothers. The television "Da Ai" network operates with its own news and television programming. Chinese schools have also been established abroad, such as in Australia and the United States, which apart from teaching Chinese and sign language also guides students in ways of compassion and community service.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the organization announced on 18 November 2012 a donation of $10 million in the form of $300 and $600 Visa debit cards to those affected in the New York and New Jersey area.[4] Volunteers handed out these cards in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.


A significant fraction of funds raised by Tzu Chi revolves around environmentally friendly goals in encouraging the recycling of items such as water bottles as well as using reusable items or reusing items to reduce waste.

The foundation operates over 4,500 recycling stations throughout Taiwan. One of the foundation's projects is the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles for textiles. The project, which was started in 2006, collects PET plastic bottles and recycles them into cloth.[5]

As of September 2008, some 11,856,000 bottles were used to make more than 152,000 polyester blankets, many of which have been distributed as part of Tzu Chi's disaster relief programs. Other items made with the recycled resins include thermal underwear, T-shirts, hospital bed sheets, medical gowns and uniforms for Tzu Chi volunteers[citation needed].


The teachings of the Buddha and founder Master Cheng Yen play a core role in the workings of the organization. "Tzu Chi Day" is celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May which generally coincides with Vesak Day and Mother's Day (as recognised in Taiwan), celebrations during Tzu Chi Day include the bathing of the Buddha that suggests a message that it is the people that needs cleansing before becoming better individuals. Tzu Chi promotes many of the teachings of Buddhism in particularly the Lotus Sutra, and also has sutra adaptations through the use of sign language on the Sutra of the Innumerable Meanings suggesting that sentient existence is challenging and filled with disasters in the absence of observations of virtue, as well as the Sutra of the Water Repentance that advocates and symbolizes the need to repent karmic transgressions. It has a policy of not proselytizing the religion directly in its public activities[citation needed]; members of any religious belief are welcomed to maintain their religious belief without discrimination. Apart from being non-proselytist, Tzu Chi's adaptation of Buddhist principles is apolitical, remaining aloof from the political segmentation notorious in Taiwan.

In disaster regions where a particular religious faith is prominent, Tzu Chi regularly works together with local religious organizations. Tzu Chi has re-built mosques and churches in disaster zones where faith plays an important role in local society.

International branches[edit]

Tzu Chi is distributed in 47 countries and regions including USA,[6] Canada, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore,[7] and various locations in Asia, Europe and Africa:[8]

Television and Satellite Network[edit]

On 17 August 1999 a television network was formed in Taiwan under the Tzu Chi Foundation of the Culture of Communication, Inc with the slogan "Love to make the world light up". Formally known as Da Ai Television,[9] the network grew into a global broadcasting presence with offerings of a radio service,[10] Tzu Chi Channel 1, Tzu Chi Channel 2, Da Ai TV Indonesia, Da Ai TV Thailand, and Da Ai TV Egypt. Live streaming of Channel 1 is also found at YouTube.[11]

Jing Si Books & Café[edit]

Jing Si Books & Café is a chain of non-profit bookstores and cafes operated by Tzu Chi offering Tzu Chi merchandise and publications by Cheng Yen.[12]

The Greater China[edit]

Tzu Chi's involvement in the People's Republic of China began in 1991, when it undertook relief operations after severe floods hit central and eastern China. Since then, the group has built schools, nursing homes and entire villages, including infrastructure in poor inland areas, such as Guizhou province.[13] In carrying out these projects, Tzu Chi has a policy that forbids public gatherings for the sole purpose of specific political, economical, and religions groups.[14]

Over the past twenty years, Tzu Chi has spread their universal love and compassion to 28 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China. Projects include relief work after major disasters like the Sichuan Earthquake; distribution of rice and goods to the poor; social programs like regular visits to the needy; scholarship programs to the less privileged students; medical missions like bone marrow donation and free clinics; and educational outings of environmental protection and recycling activities.[15]

In March 2008, Tzu Chi became the first organization represented by a non-Mainland resident to be registered with the Chinese government.[16]

In the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Tzu Chi sent food, blankets and medical aid to survivors, while volunteers in China set out for the disaster zone.[17] Tzu Chi was also one of the few organizations the Chinese government allowed to bring in aid workers from overseas to join the relief effort.[18][19] With the motto "First to arrive, last to leave," the organization has continued with long-term reconstruction work in Sichuan, and by 2010, had rebuilt thirteen schools in the region.

In August 2010, Tzu Chi became the first overseas NGO to receive permission from the Ministry of Civil Affairs to set up a nationwide charity foundation. Normally, overseas organizations must register with the Ministry of Commerce as businesses.[20] The foundation received the China Charity Award from the Ministry of Civil Affairs for its work in promoting the well-being of society and relieving the suffering of the needy in 2006 and again in 2008.

Master Cheng Yen has continued calling for building a "Bridge of Love" between China and Taiwan, believing that Great Love transcends all national, religious and racial boundaries.


The Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (慈濟大專青年聯誼會) is the Foundation's youth organization,[21] and was officially established in Taiwan on 31 May 1992. With chapters at universities worldwide, its goal is to allow university students (known as Tzu Ching or 慈青) to be involved with Tzu Chi's activities.[22][23] Tzu Ching volunteers are given the opportunity to participate in large scale events such as disaster relief and international NGO conferences as such the annual UN Youth Assembly. The founder Master Cheng Yen encouraged the Tzu Ching volunteers to actively communicate with each other, with the goals of learning and improving. Each year an international Tzu Ching officer training retreat camp is held at the origin of the foundation Hualien.

Tzu Shao (慈少) is the branch of Tzu Chi for youths 18 years and younger.

Year End Ceremonies[edit]

Each year Tzu Chi also conducts a Year End Ceremony typically attended by Tzu Chi workers, volunteers and members in December when the founder, Venerable Cheng Yen Dharma Master, distributes blessings in the form of red packets that embosses a coin in the Taiwanese currency together with auspicious words for the coming year.[24]


Tzu Chi has been a subject of several controversies in Taiwan, the most recent ones being the renewed debate in February and March 2015 about developing protected conservation areas in Neihu District. Apart from politicised diplomatic concerns such as humanitarian financial assistances in mainland China surpassing those assisting local Taiwanese[citation needed] and disrespect towards Taiwanese aborigines[citation needed], the debate brought up several details about the organization which include:

1. Their Jing Si cafes are selling Buddha-like ornaments that resemble Ven Cheng Yen more than the Shakyamuni Buddha or other commonly known Buddhas. These ornaments can cost up to NT$330,000 or more and the Taiwanese are debating that while the original ceramic sculpture resembles the ordinary enlightened monk, the subsequent retail versions became acrylic-like crystal glass ornaments with a central figure that resembles Ven Cheng Yen more than a Buddha. As major Taiwanese politicians including Ma Ying Jeu prostrate towards this ornament of Ven Cheng Yen during Vesak Day, both Buddhists and non-Buddhists have spoken out harshly that Tzu Chi is creating a God (or Noble Being perhaps) out of Ven Cheng Yen, with the expensive price tag.

2. Tzu Chi Foundation declared billions of NT dollars in the recent Fiscal Year, of which a significant amount i.e. NT$90 billion of earnings represent donations - global - while a minority come from investment and commercial profits. They recorded a profit margin after expenses of more than NT$77 billion, with said investment losses of around NT$2 billion over the past three years[citation needed]. Their submitted Financial Statement was less than half an A4 page without any endorsement from a certified accountant, while it was highlighted of all branches that their branch at Pasir Ris Singapore submitted a 30+ page Financial Statement to the Singapore government with proper accountant stamps.

3. Over more than a decade, Tzu Chi Foundation is being criticized of procuring land in Natural Conservation areas in Neihu County, Taipei. Amongst the many plots of land procured, more than 10 transactions involve a lady who is claimed to be both a Tzu Chi executive, member, and who purchased the lands in her said name bypassing Taiwanese laws regarding monastic land deals. After ongoing attempts by Tzu Chi in re-registering these conservation areas for their use, the issue was brought into a televised discussion involving a nun Shi Zhao Hui who is a said Tzu Chi spokesperson with other politicians and government officials - the event turned into a shouting match with the Buddhist nun hurling at least an abusive threat - the disputed land area is controversial because since Tzu Chi first bought the land, bad weather killed around 28 people there days after, consequently the local communities are actively protesting with support of the new Taipei mayor-ship against Tzu Chi development plans at Neihu.

4. Tzu Chi is accused of celebrating Vesak Day and Mother's Day on Ven Cheng Yen's birthday every year, and having tens of thousands of people both Buddhists and non-Buddhists practise the traditional Bathing the Buddha on replicas resembling Ven Cheng Yen instead of the conventional Shakyamuni Buddha.

5. In the Chinese Mahayana Buddhist term of "Da Ai", Tzu Chi registered a total of 51 commercial trademarks including beers, ice-creams, steamboat fish dumplings, astrology, wedding planners, scarves and firecrackers. Apart from creating commercial monopolies in the name of Buddhism, an incident recorded by Taiwan government indicated that Tzu Chi had sued a company who had actually registered the name "Da Ai" before Tzu Chi, and won the lawsuit thereby gaining the commercial trademark. There are also backlash regarding Tzu Chi's dominance of becoming a commercial enterprise rather than a Non-profit organization.

6. Tzu Chi's fund raising mechanism involves awarding Honorary Directorships to donors both Taiwanese and global that donate NT$100 million or more; these members do without Tzu Chi uniforms although they receive identity-card sized photo passes with cute lotus flowers indicating their past generous donations, i.e. if a donor donates NT$300 million his/her photo pass shows three cute lotus flowers. Other volunteers and members who don their grey or navy blue uniforms are regular donors who attended a series of trainings. Apart from being suggested as introducing a discriminative caste-like internal system, because these uniforms including their apparels and utensils such as handbags, tea, bowls, mugs, chopsticks, gowns all cost more than ordinary retailers' e.g. a pair of eco-chopsticks cost NT390 which is slightly more than what one can buy from any mall, market branding of a religious charity by Tzu Chi is being deemed an issue here.

7. Several new Tzu Chi general hospitals have their interior designs replacing the Shakyamuni Buddha with what appears as Ven Cheng Yen.

8. Months back in 2014, a disciple Wei Ying Chung of Ven Cheng Yen was convicted of distributing harmful oil products from six oil-product manufacturers that he acquired in Vietnam, he had gone ahead and distributed these oil products after learning that they failed tests in his company laboratories.

9. Since the inception of Tzu Chi around fifty years ago, the said secular sibling of Ven Cheng Yen a Mr Wang Rui Zheng has been a key leader of the corporate management arm of Tzu Chi - now somewhat more commonly known as Da Ai - from the first general hospital that Ven Cheng Yen decided on building with Taiwan government support, till the present day news station, TV channel, and several other lines of business, Mr Wang Rui Zheng is accused by certain Taiwanese public observers as 一人之下,万人之上 - suggesting perhaps that the non-governmental organization and Buddhist charitable foundation today is being operated as a crony-like profiteering capitalistic entity, while at the same time in the name of an environmentalist and spiritual cause, earning huge profiting revenues as 'donations' from transactions as small as recycling biodegradable plastic products which used to be the sources of incomes of the extremely impoverished garbage collectors in Taiwan and globally.

10. Tzu Chi Foundation also owns significant plots of land across Taiwan and worldwide, which range from premium tea plantations that retail one kati at NT$4000 as well as other news-making vacant land lots that Tzu Chi with fences that are ordered for tearing down by the Taiwan government or trees that simply disappear either because they were chopped down or damaged by bad weather.

11. Overly lavish Tzu Chi Foundation and Jing Si premises both within Taiwan and worldwide.

12. Bone marrow donation programmes operated by Tzu Chi that either are administratively or pricingly different from countries such as USA or even Singapore thereby leading to complicating and profiteering claims from certain members of the Taiwanese public, in most countries mentioned bone marrow donation programmes are led by the government, only Taiwanese bone marrow donation programmes are led apparently entirely by a non-governmental organisation.

13. Custom-made-internal-use-only Tzu Chi Jing Si handheld tablets that cost NT$9000 per employee or volunteer from their own said pockets, the apparent Taiwanese public complaint is that apart from being pricey, it serves a somewhat egoistic-fulfilment purpose of recording the amount of donations each Tzu Chi employee and volunteer has collected, and the occasional Jing Si Aphorisms by Ven Cheng Yen, both of which are traditionally printed on tiny booklets or pieces of paper.


  1. ^ O'Neill, Mark (2010), Tzu Chi: Serving With Compassion, John Wiley & Sons
  2. ^ "Tzu Chi Missions". Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "The Tzu Chi Foundation Finds Good Karma in Disaster Relief and Preparedness". American Red Cross. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Liu, Announces Buddhist Tzu Chi Donation Of $10 Million". The Queens Gazette. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Tzu Chi Quarterly, Winter 2008
  6. ^ "Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Tzu Chi Singapore". Facebook. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Tzu Chi Local Chapters and Associations". Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Da Ai Television". Tzu Chi Culture and Communication Foundation. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "大愛電視一臺 Live 直播". Youtube. Tzu Chi DaAiVideo. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "Jing Si Books & Cafe". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  13. ^ "Outline of assistance given to Chinese provinces". Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  14. ^ Tzu Chi FAQs,
  15. ^ "Tzu Chi Opens China's 1st Overseas NGO Office". Tzu Chi. 23 August 2010. 
  16. ^ "Atheist China gives nod to Taiwan Buddhist group". Reuters. 11 March 2008. 
  17. ^ "Jets lift life-saving aid materials to Sichuan". The China Post. 
  18. ^ "Mainland authorities give approval to Tzu Chi – Tzu Chi team scheduled to depart tomorrow or the day after to join the relief effort" (in Chinese). TVBS. 13 May 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008. 
  19. ^ French, Howard & Wong, Edward (16 May 2008). "In Departure, China Invites Outside Help". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ "Taiwan Buddhist Charity Tzu Chi Sets Up Shop in Atheist China". Reuters. 20 August 2010. 
  21. ^ "Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (Singapore)". 慈濟大專青年聯誼會(新加坡). Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "Singapore Tzu Ching 新加坡慈青". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  23. ^ "What is Tzu Ching". Tzu Chi Collegiate Association at the University of Michigan. University of Michigan. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  24. ^ "Tzu Chi Year End Ceremony 2013". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 

External links[edit]