Modernization and Traditionalism in Buddhist Almsgiving: The Case of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-chi Association in Taiwan

Charles B. Jones


This article presents two separate analyses. The first concerns the structure of conversion to the Buddhist Compassion Relief Ciji Association ("Ciji") in economic and sociological terms, arguing that the sudden wealth generated during Taiwan’s period of rapid economic development created a need to give that wealth meaning and the wealthy an identity, and that Ciji provided one way to meet that need. The second argues that Ciji provided a way of adapting traditional Buddhist rhetoric and imagery to facilitate the move from traditional "almsgiving" to "modern scientific charity." The concluding section will show that these two issues connect to each other, with the modernization of charity enabling the formation of a new identity for converts that lends meaning to their wealth.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Charles B. Jones

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