The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi (Ciji) Foundation from Taiwan is perhaps one of the largest Buddhist charities in the Chinese world today. This talk traces how Tzu Chi developed under the “regime of civility” in Taiwan. The same regime also contributed to the recent controversies between Tzu Chi and the Aborigines. I argue that the tension between the Buddhist non-governmental organization and the Christian Aborigines has to do with the inequality under the regime of civility: on the one hand, the Aborigines have been marginalized as the “subject” of the civility campaign by the state; and, on the other hand, the same regime of civility is what allows the Buddhist charity to thrive in civil society. This talk raises the question whether civility could turn against civil society.
C. Julia Huang is a Professor of Anthropology at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, and currently a Visiting Scholar at the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford University. Huang has published articles in the Journal of Asian Studies, Ethnology, Positions, Nova Religio, the Eastern Buddhist, and the European Journal for East Asian Studies. Her book, Charisma and Compassion: Cheng Yen and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Movement (Harvard University Press, 2009) is an ethnography of a lay Buddhist movement that began as a tiny group in Taiwan and grew into an organization with ten million members worldwide. Huang has recently completed a book manuscript, The Social Life of Goodness: Religious Philanthropy in Chinese Societies (with Robert P. Weller and Keping Wu). She is currently working on a project on the Buddhist influences on cadaver donations for medical education in Taiwan.