Thursday, May 13, 2010

Buddhist Personality : Chen Shu Ju

Today's post is on a Taiwanese woman named Chen Shu Ju. She is 60 years old, single and is a vegetable seller in a market in Taitung, Taiwan. She only studied up to primary 6 because she had to follow her father to the market to sell vegetable at 13, after the death of her mother. At home she took over her mother's role to look after 4 younger brothers and 2 younger sisters. Due to her tough life since her teenage years, she is very frugal in her spendings. She is a Buddhist and a vegetarian. Today, she spends on average NT100 (USD3) only for her daily two meals. You may be wondering why is this woman featured here afterall she is just an ordinary vegetable seller.

Well, an ordinary vegetable she may be but she is definitely not an ordinary woman. She puts most of us to shame with what she had done in the past years. She is an extrodinary woman. She was named by Time Magazine as one of 100 most influential person in the world for 2010. Forbes Asia also named her as one of the Heroes in the field of charity.

She was given recognition for her selfless philantrophy contribution. Over the years, despite her modest income, she has donated a total of NT 10 million (USD320,000 ) to help orphans and to build library in a rural school she used to attend. This year, she plans to donate another NT 1 million (USD32,000) for education and healthcare of poor students. In an interview she said that " Life is short, we should go after virtue, not wealth"

Being on the Time Magazine list, she was invited to the US to attend the citation dinner there. Initially she was reluctant to go because she has never travelled overseas before. Infact she has only been to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan only once for medical reason which was a few decades ago. The mayor of Taitung encouraged her to go to New York but it was after she received a phone call from the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou who told her that she is the pride of Taiwan that she agreed to fly to New York. Since time was running out, a team of Foreign Ministry officials worked on Sunday to process Chen's passport application and the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan offered her VIP treatment by granting her a visa within half an hour in the morning of May 3, so that she could catch an EVA Airways flight to New York in the evening on the same day.

She flew to New York on May 3, 2010 for a three day visit. There she had the honour to walk on red carpet and shared the same stage with well known celebrities and politicians. She was even introduced to Sarah Palin. She has shown to us that an ordinary person living an ordinary life could still bring changes to the lives of the others who are less fortunate than us and to become the pride of the country. She has become a celebrity in Taiwan since her listing on the Time Magazine was announced but most importantly, her story has triggered a lot more donations from the Taiwanese public in recent days. In recognition for her selfless good deeds, the Taiwanese government is planning to make a movie which will be based on her life.

In Central Park, New York

In a market in San Francisco

At her vegetable stall in Taitung

In New York. There was a little controversy over her interviews. During media interviews, she was asked to say that she was representing the President and Foreign Affairs Minister and officials. In this video ( during the red carpet interview ), she repeatedly mentioned the President and Foreign Minister ( her escort, Simon Sung from the Taiwan's represntative office in the US, was heard whispering to her " Foreign Affairs Minister ". Many parties in Taiwan slammed the move, accusing the government of using Chen Shu Ju for publicity. They said that Chen was asked to say the same thing from the day before her departure to the US. The government disputed the claim saying that Chen was shy and did not know how to answer the media, she often turned to her escort for assistance. Whatever their answers, Chen was there to represent herself and not anyone else.

Despite her celebrity status now and not feeling well due to irregular sleep during her trip to the US, she did not waste much time to resume her business after her return. She said that after closing her business for few days, she had a lot to do to set up her stall again. She also asked not to be photographed again so that she could do her business as usual