Tzu Chi

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

Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Republic of China (traditional Chinese: 財團法人中華民國佛教慈濟慈善事業基金會; simplified Chinese: 财团法人中华民国佛教慈济慈善事业基金会; pinyin: Fójiào cí jì císhàn shìyè jījīn huì; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chû-chè ki-kim-hōe) or Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟), literally "Compassionate Relief", is an international humanitarian and non-governmental organization (NGO). It is operated by a worldwide network of volunteers and employees and has been awarded a special consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.[1]

The Tzu Chi Foundation was founded by Master Cheng Yen, a Taiwanese Bhikkuni, in 1966 as a Buddhist humanitarian organization. The foundation has several sub-organizations such as the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) and also the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association (Tzu Ching) (慈濟大專青年聯誼會 (慈青)), Tzu Chi volunteers and relief workers are mostly recognizable worldwide by their blue and white uniforms called Chinese: 藍天白雲, lántiān báiyún,( lit. 'blue sky, white clouds'). Cheng Yen is considered to be one of "Four Heavenly Kings" of Taiwanese Buddhism, and Tzu Chi itself is considered to be one of the "Four Great Mountains", or four major Buddhist organizations of Taiwanese Buddhism along with Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum Mountain, and Chung Tai Shan.[2][3]


The Tzu Chi Foundation was founded as a charity organization with Buddhist origins by the Buddhist nun Master Cheng Yen 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.[4]

Tzu Chi experienced modest growth in the first two decades of its establishment, it grew to 293 members in 1968 and by 1986 had just 8,000 members. However, with the surge in popularity of "Humanistic Buddhism" in Taiwan in the late 1980s and 1990s, Tzu Chi enjoyed a rapid expansion in membership alongside several other major Taiwanese Buddhist organizations. From 1987 to 1991 Tzu Chi membership doubled in size each year, by 1994 it boasted a membership of 4 million members.[5] The group has grown to become a significant actor in civil society, with approximately 10 million members worldwide, and chapters in 47 countries.[6][7] Tzu Chi has grown to become not only the largest Buddhist organization in Taiwan,[5] but also Taiwan's largest owner of private land.[8]

The four major 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".[7]

Tzu Chi is notably distinct from the other "Four Great Mountains" and the other major Buddhist organizations of Taiwan in respect to three main unique characteristics. First of all, the founder of the organization is a female. Secondly, the founder is not a Buddhist scholar who promotes a specific interpretation of Buddhism nor started any kind of religious movement. And finally, the organization is officially a charitable organization and Tzu Chi itself focuses primarily on humanitarianism and community service rather than Buddhist spiritual development.[9]


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 View
  2. The Right Thought
  3. The Right Speech
  4. The Right Action
  5. The Right Livelihood
  6. The Right Effort
  7. The Right Mindfulness
  8. The Right Focus

Tzu Chi's Ten Precepts[edit]

Tzu Chi also has its own customized version of the Buddhist Precepts as formulated by Master Cheng-Yen. The Ten Precepts of Tzu Chi are:

  1. No killing
  2. No stealing
  3. No fornication
  4. No lying
  5. No drinking
  6. No smoking or use of narcotics or betel nuts
  7. No gambling
  8. Practice filial piety and develop pleasant manners and speech
  9. Abide by traffic laws
  10. No participation in political activities or demonstrations

Master Cheng-Yen has stated that she developed these rules based on the new needs of modern society.[10]

Global presence[edit]

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


Tzu Chi's portfolios include case management, medical, educational and disaster relief.[11]

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.[12] 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.

As of 2014, the foundation operates over 5,600 recycling stations.[13] One of the foundation's projects is the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles for the production of textiles. The project, which was started in 2006, collects PET plastic bottles and recycles them into cloth.[14] The project is handled by the Tzu Chi sponsored non-profit Da Ai Technology Co. The products are all designed by members of the paid staff and recycled plastic bottles make up about half of the raw materials for the products. The project collects about 2,000 tons of plastic bottles each year.[13]

Since 2007, the foundation has produced over 460,000 polyester blankets out of recycled plastic bottles, many of which have been distributed as part of Tzu Chi's disaster relief programs throughout the world. Other items made with the recycled resins include thermal underwear, T-shirts, hospital bed sheets, medical gowns, suitcases, stuffed animals and uniforms for Tzu Chi volunteers. While the project relies on recycled plastic bottles for the production of its products, its leaders have stated that it is still best for people to not plastic bottles at all.[15][16][13]


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;[17][18] 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.[6]

International branches[edit]

Tzu Chi is distributed in 47 countries and regions including USA,[19][20] Canada, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore,[21] and various locations in Asia, Europe and Africa:[22]

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,[23] the network grew into a global broadcasting presence with offerings of a radio service,[24] 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 and 2 can also be found on YouTube.[25]

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.[26]

People's Republic of 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.[27] In carrying out these projects, Tzu Chi has a policy that forbids public gatherings for the sole purpose of specific political, economic, and religious groups.[28]

Over the past twenty years, Tzu Chi has spread their humanitarian work and influence 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.[29]

In March 2008, Tzu Chi became the first organization represented by a non-Mainland resident to be registered with the Chinese government.[30]

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.[31] 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.[32][33] 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.[34] 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.[35][36]


The Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (慈濟大專青年聯誼會) is the Foundation's youth organization,[37] 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.[38][39] 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.[40]


  1. ^ O'Neill, Mark (2010), Tzu Chi: Serving With Compassion, John Wiley & Sons
  2. ^ "Come to Taiwan,Return with good memories". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  3. ^ Shuai, J. J.; Chen, H. C.; Chang, C. H. (2010-12-01). "Visualization of the Taiwaness Buddhism web based on social network analysis". 2010 International Computer Symposium (ICS2010): 187–191. doi:10.1109/COMPSYM.2010.5685523. 
  4. ^ "Biography of Dharma Master Cheng Yen". Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Schak, David; Hsiao, Hsin-Huang Michael (2005). "Taiwan's Socially Engaged Buddhist Groups". China Perspectives (59). Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi". The Discovery Channel. Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Tzu Chi Missions". Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  8. ^ "Why Tzu Chi is sparking resentment". Central News Agency. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  9. ^ Hsin-Huang Michael, Hsiao; Schak, David (2005). "Taiwan's Socially Engaged Buddhist Groups". China Perspectives (59). Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "The Ten Precepts of Tzu Chi". Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  11. ^ "The Tzu Chi Foundation Finds Good Karma in Disaster Relief and Preparedness". American Red Cross. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Liu, Announces Buddhist Tzu Chi Donation Of $10 Million". The Queens Gazette. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c Jennings, Ralph (17 Nov 2014). "Taiwan Buddhists transform plastic waste". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  14. ^ Tzu Chi Quarterly, Winter 2008
  15. ^ Foundation, Tzu Chi. "A Greener Blanket". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  16. ^ "Taiwan turns plastic junk into blankets, dolls". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  17. ^ "Visit to the Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan - The Manila Times Online". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  18. ^ Petilla, Danny. "Tzu Chi Foundation: Let's hear it for amazing Buddhist responders". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  19. ^ "Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  20. ^ "Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation". GuideStar USA, Inc. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "Tzu Chi Singapore". Facebook. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "Tzu Chi Local Chapters and Associations". Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "Da Ai Television". Tzu Chi Culture and Communication Foundation. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  24. ^ "". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  25. ^ "大愛電視一臺 Live 直播". Youtube. Tzu Chi DaAiVideo. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "Jing Si Books & Cafe". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "Outline of assistance given to Chinese provinces". Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  28. ^ Tzu Chi FAQs,
  29. ^ "Tzu Chi Opens China's 1st Overseas NGO Office". Tzu Chi. 23 August 2010. 
  30. ^ "Atheist China gives nod to Taiwan Buddhist group". Reuters. 11 March 2008. 
  31. ^ "Jets lift life-saving aid materials to Sichuan". The China Post. 
  32. ^ "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. 
  33. ^ French, Howard & Wong, Edward (16 May 2008). "In Departure, China Invites Outside Help". The New York Times. 
  34. ^ "Taiwan Buddhist Charity Tzu Chi Sets Up Shop in Atheist China". Reuters. 20 August 2010. 
  35. ^ Foundation, Tzu Chi. "When East Meets West". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  36. ^ "Taiwan | A Buddhist Tends to her Flock in Taiwan". Retrieved 2017-01-15. 
  37. ^ "Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (Singapore)". 慈濟大專青年聯誼會(新加坡). Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  38. ^ "Singapore Tzu Ching 新加坡慈青". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  39. ^ "What is Tzu Ching". Tzu Chi Collegiate Association at the University of Michigan. University of Michigan. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  40. ^ "Tzu Chi Year End Ceremony 2013". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]