Scientific and Sacramental: Secularization of Buddhism and Sacralization of Medical Science in Tzu Chi (Ciji)

C. Julia Huang


Tzu Chi (Ciji), a lay Buddhist charitable movement under monastic leadership, stands out among the new and large-scale Buddhist organizations in Taiwan, for its continuous focus on medical care. Presently it runs an island-wide medical network in Taiwan, the largest bone marrow databank in Asia.
How and why is medical care important to Tzu Chi? What makes Tzu Chi’s medical charity Buddhist? This paper focuses on the core of medical concerns in the Tzu Chi movement and the impact Tzu Chi’s mission has on medical practice in Taiwan. I will give a brief history of Tzu Chi’s medical charity, to show how it unfolds into an engaged Buddhism and the sacrilization of its medical practice. I will argue that the process of bestowing sacramental meanings on the scientific is a Buddhist comment on modern medical practice—a sacralization of medical science.


Engaged Buddhism; Tzu Chi or Ciji; Taiwan; Medical care; Sacralization

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