Is the concept of the NGO, or nongovernmental organization, a global catchall? This article tries to respond to the globalization of the concept of NGO by tracing the historical and local development of a Taiwanese grassroots Buddhist organization, the Buddhist Tzu Chi (Ciji) Foundation, in the public sphere of Taiwan since the late 1960s, and particularly the controversies surrounding the group's rapid growth during Taiwan's democratization since the late 1980s. The development of the Buddhist group from an unknown grassroots to a global United Nations NGO, as the article will show, attests to the plural genealogies of NGO-ness. In addition, the article argues that the genealogy of Ciji illustrates the nuanced relationship between society and the Taiwan “state,” and that Ciji embodies the shifting cultural “state” of civil society in Taiwan. The concept of the “regime of civil morality” will be introduced for the understanding of the cultural politics of NGO-ness.

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