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Taiwanese Buddhist Master Ven. Shih Chao-hwei Awarded the 38th Niwano Peace Prize

Ven. Shih Chao-hwei

The Niwano Peace Foundation of Japan today awarded the 38th Niwano Peace Prize to the celebrated Taiwanese Buddhist monastic Venerable Shih Chao-hwei, who has earned global renown as a socially engaged Buddhist, activist, scholar, and author.

“I am very honored to be selected for this year’s Niwano Peace Prize,” Ven. Chao-hwei said in her acceptance letter. “For decades, the Foundation has been a visionary leader, in Asia and across the world, for advancing peace. I am humbled to be among the other pioneering figures who have bravely and diligently committed themselves toward the well-being and harmony of our planet. And I vow to steward and carry forth this legacy with all my devotion and effort.” (Buddhist Hongshi College)

A leading voice for liberation, empowerment, and compassionate engaged Buddhism in Asia and beyond, Ven. Chao-hwei is a noted scholar and author of more than two dozen books and over 70 research papers. As founder of the Life Conservationist Association, Ven. Chao-hwe is an outspoken advocate for animal rights legislation and has authored numerous papers on nature and wildlife conservation. She has also been a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage and a key figure in the movement to support female ordination in all Buddhist traditions.

The Niwano Peace Prize takes the form of a medal, a certificate, and a grant of ¥20 million (US$183,000). The award presentation was conducted in Japan at 2pm local time on Wednesday, in a virtual ceremony due to pandemic-related restrictions.

“The world post-COVID19 is an altered one. Globally, we’ve shared a powerful common experience but there are also worrying trends that point to new fractures and deepening divisions,” Ven. Chao-hwei continued. “Therefore, we must contemplate how these ongoing transformations can be steered toward societal healing and peace-building. I propose that we look to lessons from the Dharma, which may be more urgent and critical than ever before. . . .

“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed long-held illusions and shattered old patterns. What we are presented with is an unprecedented opportunity for building better for all sentient beings. It is with this dedication toward an active and more lasting peace that I humbly accept the Niwano Peace Prize.” (Buddhist Hongshi College)

Ven. Chao-hwei was born in 1965 in the city of Yangon in Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma) to a Chinese family who had fled from China’s Guangdong Province during the rise of communism. At the age of eight, she moved with her family to Taiwan, where she flourished as a student. After attending Taiwan International Normal University, Ven. Chao-hwei was ordained as Buddhist monastic.

In 1994, Ven. Chao-hwei began teaching at Fu Jen Catholic University, and in 1997 started teaching religious studies at Hsuan Chuang University. Ven. Chao-hwei founded the Research Centre for Applied Ethics in 2004, which she continues to direct.

Ven. Chao-hwei also serves as the dean of graduate studies at Buddhist Hong Shih College and monastery, and is the chair of the department of religious studies at Hsuan Chuang University, where she teaches Buddhist philosophy and ethics, with a strong emphasis on animal rights. In 2007, Ven. Chao-hwei Shih was awarded the 48th Chinese Literature and Arts Medal for her outstanding contributions to intercultural dialogue, and in 2009 was the recipient of the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award. She is also a spiritual advisor to the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).

“Ven. Shih Chao-hwei is an internationally renowned engaged Buddhist who is also involved in academics and has established educational institutes,” said Dr. Ranjana Mukhopadhyaya, a member of the Niwano Peace Prize Committee. “She is a gender rights activists and animal rights advocate. Guided by the Buddhist teachings of saving all sentient beings, her activities have emphasized on safeguarding all forms of life. She is also vocal about various social and political issues of her country. I consider her an appropriate person for the Niwano Peace Prize.” (Niwano Peace Foundation)

Ven. Shih Chao-hwei, center, conducted the first LGBTQ Buddhist wedding ceremony in Taiwan at the Buddhist Hong-shi College in August 2012. From facebook.com

Established by Nikkyo Niwano (1906–99), co-founder and the first president of the Rissho Kosei Kai Buddhist organization in Japan, the Niwano Peace Foundation was chartered in 1978 with the aspiration of working toward the realization of world peace. The foundation promotes research and other activities in fields such as education, science, culture, and philosophy. The foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize, which has been awarded annually since 1983 “to honor and encourage those who are devoting themselves to inter-religious cooperation in the cause of peace, and to make their achievements known.” (Niwano Peace Foundation) 

Each year, the Niwano Peace Foundation asks broad range of scholars, religious leaders, and organizations representing 125 countries and various world religions to nominate suitable candidates. Nominations are rigorously screened by the Niwano Peace Prize Committee, comprised of seven religious leaders from various parts of the world, all of whom are involved in movements for peace and inter-religious cooperation.

Past recipients of the prize include the Korean Seon (Zen) master Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, who received the 37th Niwano Peace Prize in 2020; Thai social activist and founder of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists Sulak Sivaraksa, who won the award in 2011; Taiwanese Buddhist nun Master Cheng Yen, founder of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, who was awarded the prize in 2007; and Cambodian monk and peace activist Ven. Maha Ghosananda, who won the award in 1998.

See more

Niwano Peace Foundation
Buddhist Hongshi College
Ven. Shih Chao-hwei acceptance letter (Buddhist Hongshi College)
International Network of Engaged Buddhists

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