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
Other information

Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Republic of China (simplified Chinese: 财团法人中华民国佛教慈济慈善事业基金会; traditional Chinese: 財團法人中華民國佛教慈濟慈善事業基金會; 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 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 Foundation has several sub-organizations such as the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) and also the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association (慈濟大專青年), 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').

Tzu Chi has had some negative coverage in the Taiwanese media and press in early 2015[2] with both lawmakers as well as community groups both Buddhists and non-Buddhists,[3] including questionable allegations of monopolization and misuse of public kindness and compassion.[4]


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 a Buddhist nun 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. 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".[5]


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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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,[9] Canada, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore,[10] and various locations in Asia, Europe and Africa:[11]

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,[13] the network grew into a global broadcasting presence with offerings of a radio service,[14] 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 be also found on YouTube.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19]

In March 2008, Tzu Chi became the first organization represented by a non-Mainland resident to be registered with the Chinese government.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22][23] 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.[24] 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[citation needed].


The Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (慈濟大專青年聯誼會) is the Foundation's youth organization,[25] 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.[26][27] 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.[28]


  1. ^ O'Neill, Mark (2010), Tzu Chi: Serving With Compassion, John Wiley & Sons
  2. ^ "Apple Daily: Why Tzu Chi is sparking resentment". Taiwan News Online. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Professor: Tzuchi’s books should be open to the public". Taiwan News. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Chang, Kuo-tsai. "Tzu Chi must step into the light". Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Tzu Chi Missions". Retrieved 16 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Tzu Chi Foundation Finds Good Karma in Disaster Relief and Preparedness". American Red Cross. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Liu, Announces Buddhist Tzu Chi Donation Of $10 Million". The Queens Gazette. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Tzu Chi Quarterly, Winter 2008
  9. ^ "Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Tzu Chi Singapore". Facebook. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "Tzu Chi Local Chapters and Associations". Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  12. ^ "Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation". GuideStar USA, Inc. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Da Ai Television". Tzu Chi Culture and Communication Foundation. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  15. ^ "大愛電視一臺 Live 直播". Youtube. Tzu Chi DaAiVideo. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  16. ^ "Jing Si Books & Cafe". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  17. ^ "Outline of assistance given to Chinese provinces". Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  18. ^ Tzu Chi FAQs,
  19. ^ "Tzu Chi Opens China's 1st Overseas NGO Office". Tzu Chi. 23 August 2010. 
  20. ^ "Atheist China gives nod to Taiwan Buddhist group". Reuters. 11 March 2008. 
  21. ^ "Jets lift life-saving aid materials to Sichuan". The China Post. 
  22. ^ "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. 
  23. ^ French, Howard & Wong, Edward (16 May 2008). "In Departure, China Invites Outside Help". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ "Taiwan Buddhist Charity Tzu Chi Sets Up Shop in Atheist China". Reuters. 20 August 2010. 
  25. ^ "Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (Singapore)". 慈濟大專青年聯誼會(新加坡). Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "Singapore Tzu Ching 新加坡慈青". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "What is Tzu Ching". Tzu Chi Collegiate Association at the University of Michigan. University of Michigan. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  28. ^ "Tzu Chi Year End Ceremony 2013". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 

External links[edit]