Venerable Master Hsing Yun was born in 1927 in Jiangdu, Jiangsu Province, China. Having grown up in a poor household with both parents working, Venerable Master Hsing Yun never received formal education and was left in the care of his maternal grandmother. After the Sino-Japanese War broke out, while accompanying his mother to search for his missing father, who had most likely lost his life in the war in 1938, he was tonsured by eminent Master Zhi Kai in Qixia Temple, Nanjing, with Dajue Temple in Yixing, Jiangsu, as his ancestral temple. In 1947, Venerable Master Hsing Yun graduated from Jiaoshan Buddhist College, where he underwent a complete Buddhist education of Ch’an, Vinaya, doctrinal traditions, and later became the principal of Baita Elementary School, editor-in-chief of Raging Billows Monthly and abbot of Huazang Temple in Nanjing.
He arrived in Taiwan in 1949 and became the dean of the Taiwan Buddhist Seminar as well as the editor-in-chief of Human Life Magazine. In 1953, he became the guiding teacher for the Buddhist Chanting Association of Yilan, and subsequently established the Buddhist Cultural Service Centre in Taipei, in 1957. In 1964, he founded Shou Shan Temple and Shou Shan Buddhist College in Kaohsiung; and then founded the Fo Guang Shan (Buddha’s Light Mountain) Buddhist Order in 1967. With the objectives: to propagate the Dharma through culture; to foster talents through education; to benefit society through charity, and to purify people’s minds through spiritual cultivation, he has dedicated his efforts to propagating Humanistic Buddhism. Additionally, he integrated tradition and modernity in establishing the rules and regulations which were drafted and published into the Rules and Regulations of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, bringing Buddhism into a new milestone of modernization.
Having been a monastic for over seventy years, Venerable Master has successively established over three hundred temples around the world, among which Hsi Lai Temple in the United States, Nan Tien Temple in Australia, Nan Hua Temple in South Africa, and Zulai Temple in Brazil, each being the largest in the country. He also founded sixteen Buddhist Colleges, twenty-four art galleries, libraries, several publishing companies, bookstores, fifty Cloud and Water Mobile Libraries, fifty Chinese schools, as well as Chih-Kuang Commercial and Industrial Vocational High School, Pu-Men Senior High School, Jiun Tou Elementary and Junior High School, Junyi School for Innovative Learning, and several kindergartens. Other education institutes were also established in the United States, Taiwan, Australia, and Philippines such as Hsi Lai University (now University of the West), Fo Guang University, Nanhua University, Nan Tien Institute, and Guang Ming College respectively. In 2006, University of the West became the first university established by a Chinese organization to be accredited by WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges).