Thursday, Nov 23rd

About Us Tzu Chi Taiwan

The Origins of Tzu Chi Taiwan

Work for Buddhism and for All Living Beings

In February 1963, Master Cheng Yen went to Lin Chi Temple in Taipei to attend a novice initiation ceremony. However, as she had shaved her head herself and did not have the support of a mentor Dharma master, she could not receive the ordination. Then, she went to the Light of Wisdom Dharma Hall, where she met Venerable Master Yin Shun (a renowned Buddhist monk in Taiwan and an acclaimed Buddhist scholar) by chance. She was suddenly inspired to ask him to accept her as his disciple, and he kindly consented.

 Venerable Master Yin Shun gave her the Dharma name "Cheng Yen" (証嚴) and a mission: "Work for the good of Buddhism and all living beings". Since then, the Master has tirelessly dedicated her life to this vocation.


The Wooden Hut

After Master Cheng Yen was formally initiated as a nun, she returned to Hualien and continued her spiritual cultivation in a small wooden hut behind Pu Ming Temple, which was located in a village in Hualien. The hut had an area of only 120 square feet.

The Master revered the Lotus Sutra and diligently studied its contents. She recited it every day and copied it by hand every month. As she refused to accept any offerings from the laity, she often could not even afford to put flowers or fruits before the Buddha image in her hut. She stayed in the hut for six months, during which she vowed to abide by the Bodhisattva Path as taught in the Lotus Sutra.

The Founding of Tzu Chi


To mark the founding of Tzu Chi on 14 May, 1966, a Medicine Buddha Dharma service was held at Pu Ming Temple, and Master Cheng Yen personally presided over it. The Dharma service has since been held monthly at the Jing Si Abode, and Tzu Chi volunteers would distribute relief supplies to the local poor on the same day. These monthly aid distributions are sponsored by public donations.

Insisting on being self-sufficient, the Master and her disciples neither hold Buddhist rituals to make a living nor go out to ask for monetary/food offerings. Instead, they earn their livelihood by doing manual labour and making various items for sale. Every single cent of donations they received is used to fund Tzu Chi’s charitable works.


The First Long-Term Care Recipient

In May 1966, one month after Tzu Chi was founded, the charity helped an 85-year-old widow, Mrs. Lin. She was originally from mainland China and came to Taiwan at a young age. After her husband died, she lived all alone and had no one to rely on. She had a foster son, but he had passed away, too, and none of his children wanted to look after her. Tzu Chi thus engaged a caregiver to take care of her daily living needs till she passed away in February 1970.

The First Tzu Chi Publication

On 20 July, 1967, Tzu Chi published its first monthly newsletter to promote Buddhism and its charitable efforts, with the aim of earning the faith and trust of the public. Later, the newsletter evolved into Tzu Chi Monthly. The monthly journal, which contains news articles of Tzu Chi’s missions around the world and inspiring real life stories of individuals, has won much acclaim from readers.


The First Free Clinic

On 10 September, 1972, Master Cheng Yen set up a free clinic in Hualien with the assistance of Dr. Chang You-chuan and several other local medical personnel. The free clinic offered free medical services to the impoverished sick, providing more than 140,000 consultations and treatments over a period of 15 years.

However, the local medical facilities were inadequate to meet the needs of the people; patients with more serious illnesses still had to be sent to hospitals in Taipei for treatment. Therefore, Master Cheng Yen decided to fundraise to build a general hospital in Hualien. A wealthy Japanese entrepreneur offered her the extraordinary amount of US$200 million. However, the Master refused the donation as she hoped that everyone would have a chance to contribute to the construction of the hospital. After many hurdles and thanks to the contributions of numerous people, the Hualien Tzu Chi General Hospital was finally inaugurated in 1986.    


The First Disaster Relief Operation

In October, 1973, Typhoon Nara struck the east coast of Taiwan, causing much devastation. At that time, Tzu Chi only had US$2,500 in its account, and was still facing problems raising funds for its aid distribution to the poor the following month.  

Undaunted, Master Cheng Yen immediately set about organizing the collection of clothing and funds for the disaster victims. All the Tzu Chi volunteers did what they could to help with the relief effort; apart from soliciting donations in the streets, they also helped to wash and iron the clothes before packing them neatly in boxes. The relief supplies, which filled over ten carriages, were sent by train to the disaster areas to be distributed to the typhoon affectees.


Setting Up a Nursing College and a Medical School

Before the first Tzu Chi hospital had even opened, Master Cheng Yen already planned to set up nursing and medical schools to train medical professionals, as it was very difficult to attract doctors and nurses to work in rural Eastern Taiwan, where the Tzu Chi hospital was located. 

After the hospital was established, the Master actively worked to set up the schools. With support from all sides and her hard work and perseverance, the Tzu Chi Junior College of Nursing was inaugurated on 17 September, 1989, and the Tzu Chi College of Medicine on 16 October, 1994. These two events opened a new chapter in the history of Tzu Chi’s Mission of Education.

Tzu Chi offices around the world seek to fulfil societal needs by providing charitable services and free medical care to the needy, promoting education, and organising various activities that encourage humanistic values. Depending on the needs and local legislation of each country, Tzu Chi may carry out one or more of its other missions, including International Disaster Relief, Bone Marrow Donation, Environmental Protection, and Community Volunteerism.

These missions not only provide material and/or emotional assistance to those in need, but also aim to inspire kindness in people, with the objective of bringing about peace and harmony in the world.



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