A Radical Buddhism for Modern Confucians

Tzu Chi in Socio-Historical Perspective


  • Richard Gombrich Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies
  • Yu-Shuang Yao Fo Guang University, Taiwan




Tzu Chi, Humanistic Buddhism, karma, orthopraxy, lay Buddhism, gender, auhtority, Confucianism, pragmatism


The new Taiwanese religious movement Tzu Chi raises interesting issues for the study of religions. First, as a Chinese form of Buddhism, it embodies an attempt to reconcile or even merge the cultures and mindsets of two utterly different civilizations, the Indian and the Chinese. Secondly, it casts doubt on the presupposition that a sect, as against a church, demands of its members exclusive allegiance. Thirdly, it shows that an emphasis on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy may be modern as well as archaic. Fourthly, it also suggests that the view that secularization is tantamount to a narrowing of the domain of religion cannot be taken for granted. In the case of Tzu Chi there is probably some overlap between the last three issues, in that they show that generalizations about sects formulated by western sociologists have taken Christian sects as their model and may not be universally applicable.


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How to Cite

Gombrich, R., & Yao, Y.-S. (2014). A Radical Buddhism for Modern Confucians: Tzu Chi in Socio-Historical Perspective. Buddhist Studies Review, 30(2), 237–259. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v30i2.237