Hsing Yun (Chinese: 星雲; pinyin: Xīng Yún; 19 August 1927 – 5 February 2023) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, teacher, and philanthropist based in Taiwan. He was the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist monastic order as well as the layperson-based Buddha's Light International Association. Hsing Yun was considered a major proponent of Humanistic Buddhism and one of the most influential teachers of modern Taiwanese Buddhism. In Taiwan, he was popularly referred to as one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" of Taiwanese Buddhism, along with his contemporaries: Master Sheng-yen of Dharma Drum Mountain, Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi and Master Wei Chueh of Chung Tai Shan.[1][2][3]

Hsing Yun
Hsing Yun in 2009
TitleVenerable Master (大師)
Lee Kuo-shen (李國深)

(1927-08-19)19 August 1927
Died5 February 2023(2023-02-05) (aged 95)
Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Dashu, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  • Linji school
  • Fo Guang Shan Lineage
Lineage48th Generation
EducationQixia Academy of the School of Vinaya
Known forFather of the modern Humanistic Buddhism movement in Taiwan
Dharma names
  • Jinjue (今覺)
  • Wuche (悟徹)
TempleFo Guang Shan
Senior posting
TeacherShi Zhikai (釋志開)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese星雲
Simplified Chinese星云
Lee Kuo-shen
Traditional Chinese李國深
Simplified Chinese李国深


Hsing Yun was born Lee Kuo-shen (pinyin: Lǐ Guóshēn) in 1927 in Jiangdu village (modern day Yangzhou), Kiangsu (Jiangsu) Province in the Republic of China. Hsing Yun's first exposure to Buddhism came from his grandmother, a practicing Buddhist and meditator. In 1938 he entered the monastic life at the age of 12, ordaining as a novice at Qixia Temple under Zhikai, where he received the novice name Jinjue. He received the upasampadā vinaya precepts under Ruoshun at the same temple in 1941, receiving the dharma name Wuche.

Shortly after taking the full precepts, Hsing Yun was first inspired by Buddhist modernism in 1945 while studying at Jiaoshan Buddhist College. There he learned about Buddhist teacher Taixu's calls for reform in Buddhism and the Sangha. At a certain point, he adopted the name "Hsing Yun", literally meaning "nebula" in Chinese, to reflect his new philosophy.[4] He fled mainland China to Taiwan in 1949 following the communist victory in the civil war but was arrested along with several other Buddhist monastics. Hsing Yun and the others were released after 23 days, and he then spent the next several years developing a large following and founding numerous temples. In 1966, Hsing Yun bought some land in Kaohsiung and started building a large monastery. After partial completion, the temple opened in 1967 and would later become the headquarters of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist organization.[5]

Hsing Yun's Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order is a proponent of "Humanistic" Buddhism,[6][5] and Hsing Yun himself was the abbot of the order until his resignation in 1985.[7][8] Following his resignation, Hsing Yun founded the Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA) as a layperson based Humanistic Buddhist organization.[8]

Fo Guang Shan eventually grew to become one of the most significant social actors in Taiwan; the organization has established several schools and colleges,[9] and runs orphanages, homes for the elderly, and drug rehabilitation programs in prisons. Fo Guang Shan has also been involved in some international relief efforts.[10][11]

Fo Guang Shan entered mainland China in the early 21st century, focusing more on charity and Chinese cultural revival rather than Buddhist propagation in order to avoid conflict with the Chinese government, which opposes proselytizing. Fo Guang Shan's presence in China increased under the premiership of General Secretary Xi Jinping after he started a program to revive traditional Chinese faiths.[12] According to Hsing Yun, his goal in mainland China was to work with the mainland government to rebuild China's culture following the destruction of the Cultural Revolution, rather than promote Buddhism in the mainland.[13]

The headquarters of Fo Guang Shan in Kaohsiung is currently the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. On top of that, the order has a network of over 300 branches throughout Taiwan,[11] as well as several branches worldwide in at least fifty countries.[12]


Hsing Yun with President Ma Ying-jeou in 2010; Hsing Yun was a supporter of the Kuomintang and gave his endorsement to Ma in the 2008 presidential election.

In Taiwan, Hsing Yun was notable for his activity in political affairs, particularly as a supporter of the One-China policy as well as government legislation supported by the Kuomintang, and was criticized for his views by those in favor of Taiwan independence and by religious figures, as being overtly political and "considerably far afield from traditional monastic concerns".[14][15] During the 2008 presidential election, Hsing Yun publicly endorsed Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou.[16] During the second World Buddhist Forum in 2009, Hsing Yun asserted that there are "no Taiwanese" and that Taiwanese "are Chinese".[15] During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Hsing Yun caused considerable comment when he compared DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen to the Chinese goddess Mazu, commenting that those traits would probably help Tsai be elected president, which she eventually was. To dispel rumors of party switching, Hsing Yun publicly gave his endorsement to KMT candidate Hung Hsiu-chu, who eventually withdrew from the race.[17] Despite his Kuomintang partisanship, Hsing Yun was generally known to be respected by politicians of both parties.[18]

He encouraged reconciliation between China and the Dalai Lama,[19] but tried hard to avoid causing rifts between him and his organisation and the Chinese government.[20]

Illness and deathEdit

On 26 December 2011, Hsing Yun suffered a minor ischemic stroke, his second in that year.[21] In his older years Hsing Yun began suffering from numerous health issues, including diabetes and near blindness.[13]

A memorial altar to Hsing Yun at Hsi Lai Temple following his passing

Hsing Yun died at his residence in Fo Guang Shan monastery on the afternoon of 5 February 2023, after years of unstable health. He was 95 (97 according to East Asian age reckoning), having spent 85 years of his life as a monastic. The announcement of his death was delayed in order for his worldwide branch temples to finish celebrating ceremonies on the Lantern Festival, the last day of the Lunar New Year celebration. Per his wishes, he requested to be returned to Fo Guang Shan where he could die peacefully. He had also requested that no extravagant funeral arrangements be made, eschewing the traditional 49 day mourning period down to seven days.

On the early morning of 6 February, the news of Hsing Yun’s death was announced in the Great Hero Hall by Venerable Hsin Bau. Shortly after the formal announcement, Hsing Yun’s body was placed in a seated position inside a dome-like container in the shape of the Parinirvana Stupa in Kushinagar, India. [22] His body was placed upon a dais inside the Cloud Dwelling Building where he laid in state for seven days. During this time, monastics, lay followers, and dignitaries paid their respects. [23]

Hsing Yun’s funeral was held on 13 February, with President Tsai Ing-wen, Premier Chen Chien-jen, KMT chairman Eric Chu, and Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chi-mai in attendance.[24] His remains were cremated at Daxian Temple in nearby Tainan, Baihe District. His urn was returned to Fo Guang Shan’s Longevity Memorial Park the same evening.[25] Several colorful sarira pearls were reported to have been found among Hsing Yun’s remains following his cremation.[26]


In 2008, Hsing Yun was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College.[27]

On the morning of 13 February 2023, President Tsai Ing-wen conferred a posthumous presidential citation upon Hsing Yun, extolling his many achievements.[28]


  1. ^ "Come to Taiwan, Return with good memories". Info.taiwan.net.tw. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  2. ^ Shuai, J. J.; Chen, H. C.; Chang, C. H. (1 December 2010). "Visualization of the Taiwaness Buddhism web based on social network analysis". 2010 International Computer Symposium (ICS2010): 187–191. doi:10.1109/COMPSYM.2010.5685523. ISBN 978-1-4244-7639-8. S2CID 18858823.
  3. ^ Abeynayake, Oliver; Tilakaratne, Asanga (1 January 2011). 2600 Years of Sambuddhatva: Global Journey of Awakening. p. 282. ISBN 9789559349334. Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  4. ^ Harding, John S.; Hori, Victor Sōgen; Soucy, Alexander (29 March 2010). Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 282. ISBN 9780773591080.
  5. ^ a b Schak, David; Hsiao, Hsin-Huang Michael (1 June 2005). "Taiwan's Socially Engaged Buddhist Groups". China Perspectives. 2005 (3). doi:10.4000/chinaperspectives.2803. ISSN 2070-3449.
  6. ^ Richard L. Kimball (2000). Humanistic Buddhism as Conceived and Interpreted by Grand Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan Archived 28 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Hsi Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism 1: 1–52.
  7. ^ Fo Guang Shan – Abbotship. Archived 26 August 2006.
  8. ^ a b Harding, John S.; Hori, Victor Sōgen; Soucy, Alexander (29 March 2010). Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 283. ISBN 9780773591080.
  9. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark; Roof, Wade Clark (2012). Encyclopedia of Global Religion. SAGE. p. 406. ISBN 9780761927297.
  10. ^ Miller, DeMond S.; Rivera, Jason David (19 April 2016). Community Disaster Recovery and Resiliency: Exploring Global Opportunities and Challenges. CRC Press. p. 452. ISBN 9781420088236.
  11. ^ a b Schak, David; Hsiao, Hsin-Huang Michael (1 June 2005). "Taiwan's Socially Engaged Buddhist Groups". China Perspectives. 2005 (59). doi:10.4000/chinaperspectives.2803. ISSN 1996-4617.
  12. ^ a b Johnson, Ian (24 June 2017). "Is a Buddhist Group Changing China? Or Is China Changing It?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 31 January 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  13. ^ a b Johnson, Ian; Wu, Adam (24 June 2017). "A Buddhist Leader on China's Spiritual Needs". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 26 January 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  14. ^ [s.n.] (4 June 2008). A Buddhist master straddles the Taiwan Straits: Hsing Yun seeks to make reunification Buddhism’s sixth precept – at least for Beijing. Asia Sentinel. Archived 15 September 2015.
  15. ^ a b Loa Iok-sin (31 March 2009). "Taiwan Buddhist master: 'No Taiwanese". Taipei Times. p. 1. Archived from the original on 2 April 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  16. ^ "{title}" 意在言外 星雲籲幫馬找工作. 民視新聞. 26 December 2011. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  17. ^ "{title}" 星雲大師:蔡英文是媽祖婆 會保護台灣. 自由時報. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "{title}" 赴佛光山悼念星雲法師 陳菊:感謝他貢獻讓社會更和諧. 中時新聞. 7 February 2023. Retrieved 9 February 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "Taiwan monk urges China to befriend Dalai Lama". 31 January 2009.
  20. ^ Chandler, Stuart (2004). Establishing a Pure Land on Earth: The Foguang Buddhist Perspective on Modernization and Globalization. Topics in Contemporary Buddhism. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 258–259.
  21. ^ "Taipei Times: Hsing Yun recovering after stroke, 26 December 2011". 28 December 2011. Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  22. ^ "星雲大師「真身封龕」畫面曝光 弟子24小時守靈7天". www.news.tvbs.com.tw (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 6 February 2023.
  23. ^ "星雲大師圓寂! 信眾.陳其邁前往雲居樓弔唁". www.news.cts.com.tw (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 6 February 2023.
  24. ^ "President, premier attend funeral of Fo Guang Shan founder Hsing Yun - Focus Taiwan". 13 February 2023.
  25. ^ "星雲大師回佛光山圓寂 不願影響社會資源 醫療長年自費". www.worldjournal.com (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 5 February 2023. Retrieved 6 February 2023.
  26. ^ "Relics of Fo Guang Shan's Master Hsing Yun in Taiwan". 14 February 2023.
  27. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". www.whittier.edu. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  28. ^ "總統頒贈褒揚令 表彰星雲大師對國家、社會及宗教界之卓越貢獻" (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 總統府. 13 February 2023. Retrieved 14 February 2023.

General and cited referencesEdit

External linksEdit

Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Abbot and Director of Fo Guang Shan
Succeeded by