Tzu Chi's lotus Logo.
|Full name||Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Republic of China|
|Established||14 May 1966|
|Part of a series on|
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.
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 with both lawmakers as well as community groups both Buddhists and non-Buddhists, including questionable allegations of monopolization and misuse of public kindness and compassion.
- 1 History
- 2 Global presence
- 2.1 Portfolios
- 2.2 Recycling
- 2.3 Dharma
- 2.4 International branches
- 2.5 Television and Satellite Network
- 2.6 Jing Si Books & Café
- 2.7 Greater China
- 3 Youth
- 4 Year End Ceremonies
- 5 Controversies
- 6 References
- 7 External links
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.
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".
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:
- The Right Views
- The Right Thoughts
- The Right Speeches
- The Right Behaviors
- The Right Livelihood
- The Right Efforts
- The Right Mindfulness
- 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.
Tzu Chi's headquarters are in Hualien County, Taiwan.
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. 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.
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.
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; 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.
Asia (17 countries)
North & South America (3 and 15 countries, respectively)
European Union (8 countries)
Greater Africa (4 countries)
Oceania (2 countries)
Television and Satellite Network
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, the network grew into a global broadcasting presence with offerings of a radio service, 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.
Jing Si Books & Café
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. 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.
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.
In March 2008, Tzu Chi became the first organization represented by a non-Mainland resident to be registered with the Chinese government.
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. 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. 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. 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.
The Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (慈濟大專青年聯誼會) is the Foundation's youth organization, 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. 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
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.
Under attack for over a month, the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation recently announced that it will withdraw a land development project in Taipei's Neihu district, will expand the reorganization of its boards of directors and supervisors, will make public its donations and will take all comments from the general public into consideration. [...] It appears to have become open season for internet users to launch emotional attacks on Tzu Chi with all manner of allegations with not-necessarily reliable information. Seizing on the online allegations, media pundits have piled in to criticize Tzu Chi in a manner akin to a witch hunt. [...] If Tzu Chi can gratefully accept all the comments and criticisms from the public and carry out adjustments in response, it will mark a new beginning of a goodness cycle. Tzu Chi's long-term efforts in providing disaster relief worldwide shouldn't be ignored. Although there may be issues concerning its management and operation, it is not necessary to make the charity a public enemy out of cynicism and spite.
Tzu Chi has been a subject of several controversies in Taiwan, the most recent ones being the decade-long debate about NT$1.3 billion spent on taking possession of a plot of land in developing protected conservation areas in Neihu District which has since been shelved. The debate has been heated to the point where media pundits have made claims of impediment of press freedom. Other claims that have been made include:
1. Their Jing Si cafes are selling Buddha-like crystal glass ornaments that can cost up to NT$330,000 or more, which according to some critics resembles Ven Cheng Yen more than a traditional Buddha image.
2. Tzu Chi Foundation's submitted Financial Statement for Taiwan was less than half an A4 page without any endorsement from a certified accountant, while their branch at Pasir Ris Singapore submitted a 30+ page Financial Statement to the Singapore government with proper accountant stamps. In response to this criticism, in March, 2015, the foundation published comprehensive financial records online to the public.
3. Over more than a decade, Tzu Chi Foundation has been criticized for procuring land in Natural Conservation areas in Neihu District, Taipei. After ongoing attempts by Tzu Chi in re-registering these conservation areas for use first as a children’s hospital and later as a disaster coordination center, the issue was brought into a televised discussion involving a nun, Shi Zhao Hui, who is unaffiliated with Tzu Chi, with politicians and government officials. It has been claimed that the disputed land area, which was bought by the foundation at the request of the Taipei city government, had been illegally altered by the previous owner. Consequently, local communities have been protesting against Tzu Chi development plans in Neihu. In response to the criticism, Tzu Chi Foundation canceled its application for altering the land in March, 2015.
4. Tzu Chi's fundraising mechanism involves awarding "Honorary Board Member" status to donors (both Taiwanese and international) that donate NT$1 million or more; these members then receive identity-card sized photo passes with lotus flowers indicating their status as "Honorary Board Members" and have no prescribed uniform. Those considered regular donors instead are required to don grey or navy blue uniforms and attend seminars. This has been criticized as introducing a discriminative hierarchy.
5. Tzu Chi's uniforms, including their apparel and utensils (such as handbags, [tea, bowl], mugs, and chopsticks), have been criticized as costing more than ordinary retailers. For example, a pair of eco-chopsticks cost NT100 (US$3.25),  which is claimed to be slightly more than what one can buy from any mall. Branding of a religious charity by Tzu Chi is being deemed as the key issue in this regard.
6. 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 had failed quality control tests in his company laboratories.
7. Since the inception of Tzu Chi around fifty years ago, its secular sibling has been Ven Cheng Yen. Mr Wang Duan 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 to build, with the Taiwanese government's support, till the present day TV channel.
8. Tzu Chi Foundation owns significant plots of land across Taiwan and worldwide, including a premium tea plantation that retails one kati (about 1.5 pounds) for NT$4000 (US$120).
9. Bone marrow donation programmes operated by Tzu Chi are different from countries such as USA or even Singapore thereby leading to complication and profiteering claims from certain members of the Taiwanese public. In the countries mentioned, bone marrow donation programmes are led by the government, with only Taiwanese bone marrow donation programmes being often led by non-governmental organisations.
10. Custom-made, internal-use-only Tzu Chi Jing Si handheld tablets are sold at NT$9000 (US$270) to employees and volunteers. The complaint made in this regard by the Taiwanese public is that apart from being pricey, they serve the purpose of recording the amount of donations each Tzu Chi employee and volunteer has collected. They also display Jing Si Aphorisms by Ven Cheng Yen. Both of these documents are traditionally printed on tiny booklets or pieces of paper, so according to the foundation, this is a way to reduce the use of paper in its fundraising and media operations.
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