Shanghai Monk Finds Forever Homes for Numerous Stray Dogs

This Buddhist monk has dedicated his life to rescuing China’s strays.

Jul 21, 2021
Shanghai Monk Finds Forever Homes for Numerous Stray Dogs | This Buddhist monk has dedicated his life to rescuing China’s strays.

As a Buddhist monk, Zhi Xiang’s mission is to embody the principles of his faith, setting a positive example of discipline and commitment to fellow Buddhists. But beyond serving as a spiritual guide for his community, Zhi has a personal mission — to rescue and rehabilitate China’s stray dogs, with the ultimate goal of placing them in permanent homes with loving families.

Clad in his bright orange robes, Zhi has become an instantly recognizable figure on Shanghai’s streets, where he searches for injured, ailing, and abandoned animals that he can take back to the rehabilitation center at his Bao'en Temple. 

He told AFP that he cares for some 8,000 dogs, along with 200 cats and scores of peacocks, chicken, and geese. The animals live in both his rescue center located inside the Bao’en Temple center where he is the head monk, and at a shelter in nearby Dagang, which he rents.

Zhi regularly rescues dogs that are slated to be put down at local animal shelters, taking them back to his own centers until they find a home. He provides the animals with food; he estimates that he and his team go through 60 tons of food each month. And he also offers basic medical care, including immunizations.

“I started to save stray animals in 1993,” he told local news site SmartShanghai. “I was in a car on the highway, and I saw a cat that had been hit by a car. It all started there...Eventually, I just started driving around with no other purpose than hoping to find animals that needed help.”

China’s growing middle class led to a spike in interest in keeping pets, Zhi explained, but that enthusiasm often wasn’t backed up by an understanding of the principles of responsible ownership. 

Families may not realize the commitment that comes along with owning a pet, and sometimes abandon the animals on city streets. Pet owners typically don’t spay or neuter their pets, leading to even more strays.

“This [situation] is not caused by people who dislike dogs, or by the government, but by so-called dog lovers who don't have proper animal-caring knowledge,” he told AFP.

Zhi’s supporters use social media to raise donations for his efforts and connect with people living in Europe and North America who would like to adopt the dogs. So far, around 300 pooches have found new homes in Germany, the United States, and Canada.

The monk’s love for his animals is also clear in the recent AFP video in the above tweet, which also shows Zhi accompanying one of his dogs to the airport. A volunteer was flying to Seattle to bring the dog to its new home, and Zhi is seen cuddling the dog and wiping away tears when the time came for the pair to part ways at the departure gate.

“I have a dream that one day, when I have some free time, I want to go abroad and visit them, take photos with every dog that I rescued,” Zhi said wistfully. “So when I get old and can't walk, I have these photos to look at.”

Zhi’s success in creating a loving home for downtrodden animals, even without financial backing from the Chinese government, proves that selfless dedication can be enough to have a huge impact on major societal issues. Inspired by his zeal for saving the lives of strays, Zhi’s grassroots project has won the hearts of everyone from Shanghai locals to international admirers. With so many supporters in his corner, Zhi shows no sign of slowing down, and the future for Shanghai’s stray dogs looks brighter than ever.

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Fascinated by storytelling since childhood, Lauren is passionate about the written word. She’s a freelance writer who has covered everything from the latest developments in tech to geopolitics. When she’s not writing, Lauren is interested in genealogical research and family folklore.