Occupation: Buddhist nun and philanthropist
Previous TIME 100 appearances: 0
Cheng Yen is known as the Chinese world's Mother Teresa. She runs the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, one of Asia's largest charities. Earthquakes, floods, typhoons, famine, tsunamis, you name it Tzu Chi people are there dispensing food, blankets and warm clothing (as they have done recently in Japan), and also committing long-term by rebuilding villages, establishing clinics and schools and providing scholarships to needy students. The foundation is based in Hualien on Taiwan's east coast, but has chapters worldwide. Cheng Yen's reputation is such that the group is allowed everywhere, even into hermetic North Korea and conflict zones like Afghanistan. Tzu Chi is well funded by millions of donors, including a few tycoons who want her blessing, but there has never been any hint of impropriety.
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