China has a massive overpopulation problem with dogs and cats. According to China dialogue, the country’s pet industry is unregulated. Many breeders forge immunization records. Additionally, the conditions these animals live in is deplorable. Many of them live on pet farms unimmunized, which means many of them have serious health problems. In Caidang, there is a mile and a half stretch of road where merchants sell these animals in large volumes each evening. If a dog or cat is used for breeding, they spend their lives in cages, and some cats are given drugs to keep them in heat their whole lives. The sick are given medications to help them seem healthy, only to go home with unsuspecting owners and die or need serious medical attention. Many abandoned animals are left on the streets. Since they are not spayed or neutered, it fosters overpopulation. This problem is country-wide and has continued to go unchecked for years. It’s projected that by 2022, there will be over 300 million dogs and cats in China. It’s estimated that a fifth of those animals will die on the streets. Since there isn’t a national law to regulate this, this problem will continue to go unchecked, and the situation will escalate. However, one person is certainly trying to help these animals have a better life.
His life’s work
Zhi Xiang’s mother was a Buddist, so he grew up with many rituals and traditions that inspired his calling. In an article he wrong for Smart Shanghai, his grandmother passed away in 1987. During a conversation with the Shanghai Buddhism Association, he was asked if he wanted to become a monk. After realizing he didn’t want a wife or any other job, he realized that this was his life’s work. So, he began his life’s work, studying at The Buddhist Academy of Shanghai. After completing his initial studies, he went to the Bao’en Temple, where there was a need for additional monks. He was excited to get out of the city. Now, he has spent his life there.
He was first prompted to start his life’s work during a car ride. He noticed a cat who was hit by a car. Seriously injured, it tried to crawl to the side of the road. Although this day haunts him, it prompted him to take action and started rescuing animals in 1993, carrying plastic bags with him to bury those who died. Concerned about the overpopulation problems in China, the ones who could be saved were spayed or neutered and set free. Over time he wanted to find more ways to rescue animals. For two decades, he did his work quietly in the monastery. Sometimes, people asked if they could donate, but he turned it down, suggesting they contribute items like food or other supplies. Almost three decades later, Zhi Xiang has about 8000 dogs as well as hundreds of cats. Additionally, he has some geese, chickens, and peacocks. Throughout the years, he’s learned to do many things a veterinarian would do since medical bills for this number of animals would be astronomical.
His mission grows
Several years ago, he began taking donations when the number of animals grew more significant than the temple could accommodate. Initially, he wanted to run a shelter in Ningbo. He was able to realize his dream, but unfortunately, it didn’t last. Many people didn’t understand his vision and told lies about his project. So, in 2019 he opened a shelter in Dagang Pudong once he knew his animals would be safe. Additionally, he began taking donations to help assist with the rent. He’s also started rescuing animals from the shelter in Fengxian. Unlike many shelters in the United States, this one is a kill shelter. Even if the dogs aren’t killed, they are left to starve. Many days Zhi Xiang works from dawn until dusk. If he takes an animal from the shelter, he closely monitors the dog before bringing them to his shelter. Additionally, he makes sure they are vaccinated and spayed or neutered. According to ABC Australia, sadly, about 30 percent of his animals are too sick to stay in the shelter or die from diseases. According to a good news network, running the shelter in Dagang Pudong costs 2.5 million dollars a year. Zhi Xiang works diligently to find his animals homes abroad since the regulations in China are nonexistent, and he fears for their safety since he feels many people in China lack the needed information to give them the lives they deserve. So far, 300 dogs have found homes in the United States, Canada, and Germany thanks to social media and the efforts of his volunteers.
During an interview with ABC Australia, he recalled a recent adoption. He stood in the Shanghai airport, whispering goodbye until the passenger collected the lucky dog and took them to their new home in Seattle, Washington. He remembers crying as the dog left because each of his pets has a special place in his heart. Zhi Xiang said, “I think they’re very happy, so I feel worthwhile.” He added, “but of course, I miss them.” He hopes someday he will travel the world and meet the animals in their new homes. At 51, he knows that he won’t be able to continue his work for as long as he’d like. So, he hopes to have the pictures so when he can’t continue rescuing animals, he can look at them and remember his life’s work.
Although the ultimate goal of Buddhism is Nirvana, or the desires and suffering are transcended. Zhi Xiang has found a different type of Nirvana. The 8000 dogs in his shelter bless him every day, and he honors them and countless others by being there and helping them through some of their darkest hours. If you would like more information on donating to this worthy cause, you can reach Zhi Xiang on his cell phone through WeChat ryandesign2005 or call him at 13916598040. The shelter accepts both volunteers and donations. Additionally, they help connect rescued animals with their forever homes overseas.