Tzu Chi Q&A

A Glimpse into the Missions and Spirit of Tzu Chi

With love,
we can all make a difference in the world.
–Dharma Master Cheng Yen

1. What is Tzu Chi Foundation?

Tzu Chi Foundation is a Buddhist non-profit organization based in Taiwan and also an NGO under the UN umbrella.

Founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, the Jing Si Abode is the spiritual home of all Tzu Chi members. (Tzu Chi Foundation)

2. What does “Tzu Chi” mean?

“Tzu” means “compassion” and “Chi” means “relief” in Chinese. Together, “Tzu Chi” means “relieving suffering with compassion.”

3. Who founded Tzu Chi and why?

Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Founder of Tzu Chi Foundation

Tzu Chi was founded in 1966 by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in Hualien, eastern Taiwan.

One day in 1966 when the Master was visiting a patient at a clinic, she saw a pool of blood on the floor. She was told that the blood was from an indigenous woman who suffered from labor complications but was carried away because she couldn’t pay a required fee in advance. Feeling deeply for the woman, the Master asked herself what she could do to help the poor.

Not long after that, three Catholic nuns visited the Master. During their conversation, the nuns mentioned the work Catholics had done for society and asked the Master what Buddhists had done. The nuns’ words struck a chord with her. In May 1966, the Master founded Tzu Chi and started guiding her followers to do charitable work.

4. Who is Dharma Master Cheng Yen?

Coming from a well-to-do family, at the age of 25, Dharma Master Cheng Yen renounced the lay life in pursuit of life's meaning and purpose after her father's sudden death. In 1963, she took refuge in Ven. Yin Shun, a prominent monk and scholar in contemporary Chinese Buddhism. Throughout her monastic life, Master Cheng Yen has been living out her master's words, "Work for Buddhism and for all living beings," by spreading the Buddha's teachings and carrying out Tzu Chi's missions to benefit humanity and the world.

5. What is the main focus of Tzu Chi’s work?

Tzu Chi has Four Missions: charity, medicine, education, and culture, which have later extended to include international relief, bone marrow donation, community volunteerism, and environmental protection. These eight endeavors are the major areas of work of Tzu Chi Foundation.

6. How many countries is Tzu Chi present in?

As of 2019, Tzu Chi had set up offices in 63 countries and regions around the globe. Please see the map below for Tzu Chi’s presence worldwide.

 

7. How is Tzu Chi funded?

Tzu Chi is mostly funded by small donations from its donating members, who can decide for themselves which of Tzu Chi's missions they are going to support.

8. How many donating members does Tzu Chi have?

As of 2019, the number of Tzu Chi's donating members had accumulated to over 10 million across the world.

9. What is the significance of the Tzu Chi logo?

The Tzu Chi logo is a lotus flower in full bloom with a ship at the heart of the flower. The flower represents enlightenment, and the ship signifies ferrying living beings across the sea of suffering to the shore of peace and safety.

10. What is the story behind Tzu Chi’s coin banks?

A family of Tzu Chi’s aid recipients in Malaysia donates their savings from a coin bank for Tzu Chi to help those in need. (He Wei-mei)

When Tzu Chi was first founded and had scarce resources, Master Cheng Yen asked the 30 housewives who followed her to each save 50 NT cents (approximately 1 US cent) from their grocery money in a bamboo coin bank every day, and then they pooled their savings together to help those in need.

Tzu Chi volunteers in Texas, USA collect donations for those affected by Tropical Storm Imelda with a Tzu Chi’s coin bank. (Tzu Chi Texas, USA)

As the word spread, more and more people were inspired to take up the practice of saving 50 NT cents a day, and Tzu Chi was able to help more people in need.

Up to this date, saving a little every day in a coin bank is still being practiced by Tzu Chi members and many people around the world.

As Master Cheng Yen often says, everyone, rich or poor, can give what they can to help others. It’s not the amount of donation that counts, but the heart to give. By donating a little every day, people will give rise to a thought of goodness and do a good deed every day. With more people harboring kind thoughts and doing good, the world will eventually become a better place.

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