Master Hsiao, Chang Ming was the Founder of Tien De Religion. He was born in 1895 and died in 1943 at the age of forty-nine.
Master Hsiao was a native of Hsiao Bay, Hing Lung Market, Log Chi Village of Szchun Province in China. His first wife bore them two sons and three daughters. During the Sino-Japanese war, the Master’s first wife was killed in Wopei Province in an attack by Japanese warplanes. Because of his mother’s old age and his small children, Master Hsiao obeyed his mother’s wish that he re-marry.
The life of the Founder is replete with legendary episodes. He actually died at age of six in an illness; miraculously however, he returned to life after three hours of death. Furthermore, not only did his behavior become different so that his actions no longer were those of a child, but also the Founder began to frequently speak with profoundly philosophic wisdom. Later on, Master Hsiao felt in his heart the urgent need of salvation on the part of all the people. No longer having time to delay, he finally, one quiet night, kneeled down and bowed his head in front of his parents’ room to pay respect and thereupon left his home to preach to the people.
Later on, Master Hsiao expanded his message beyond the “ZHONG, XIAO, REN, CI” four characters to “ZHONG, XIAO, REN, CI, DE (Ethic), LIAN (Integrity), YEN (Forbearance), GONG (Impartiality), JUE (Consciousness), RANG (Tolerance),” and “JIE (Temperance), XIAO, REN, CI, DUAN (Dignity), DE (Ethic), QIN (Diligence), LIAN (Integrity), CHY (Sense of Shame), JING (Respect)” two sets of Characters for either his male or female disciples to follow accordingly. He propounded as Grand Harmony theory the amalgamation of five major religions so that all the religions can be in harmony. His aim was that the world would then be more at peace and that people would help each other and have compassion for each other. In this way, we can live nearly approximate a paradise on earth.
Owing to his healing of so many infirm people in China, and his giving many lectures on the sutras, as well as numerous sermons and exhorting all people to virtue, Master Hsiao gained wide respect. Many became his disciples to follow the path faithfully. As the number of disciples steadily increased, Master Hsiao and his followers established numerous religious centers scattered all over China and strengthened their effort directed toward the salvation of all people. Later on in 1927, the name of Tien De Religion (In English, Heavenly Virtue) came to be used. At the same time, the characters were expanded once again to today’s twenty characters:
- ZHONG (Loyalty)
- MING (Brightness)
- YI (Righteousness)
- GONG (Impartiality)
- REN (Benevolence)
- JIE (Temperance)
- LI (Propriety)
- SHU (Forgiveness)
- DE (Ethic)
- XIN (Trustfulness)
- BO (Broadness)
- CI (Mercifulness)
- JIAN (Frugality)
- HO (Harmony)
- LIAN (Integrity)
- ZHENG (Uprightness)
- YEN (Forbearance)
- XIAO (Filial Piety)
- JUE (Consciousness)
- ZHEN (Genuineness)
In all, these twenty characters are comprised in Master Hsiao’s Doctrine of Twenty Characters, also known as the Doctrine of Recitation Characters or Twenty Characters Philosophy.
In the spring of 1937, foreseeing a catastrophe coming to the world, Master Hsiao established a temple on the Mountain of Huang (Huang Shan) in Anhui Province and there endeavored in the midst of its spirit of nature to train more people to spread the Twenty Characters Doctrine and to pray for a world in peace. Perhaps once again, trained disciples will resume their effort to bring this saving message to all people.
In the winter of 1942, Master Hsiao passed away while meditating.
Master Hsiao lived through the late Ching Dynasty into the early period of Nationalist China, until the upheaval of the Sino-Japanese war. His life spent in the salvation of people will be everlasting in its importance. Within his second life span of but forty two years, besides saving any number of people and working sacred miracles, Master Hsiao set up charitable farms and businesses. Master Hsiao was without any doubt a unique model for all succeeding generations.
Due to his most remarkable life in and transcending this world, a life that featured untold efforts and contributions for us all, he is to this day thus honored as “Master Hsiao” and “Master of Yi QI.”
Here follows a work of translation into modern-day English of Master Hsiao’s Doctrine of Twenty Characters from its original Chinese.
Information provided by Mr. Hsiao, Chih Son of Master Hsiao in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, December 1998