In memory of Mahn-Chi Foung, a visionary for compassionate living

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Mahn-Chi Foung in the first week of September, at the age of 74 – doctor of acupuncture, philosopher, artist, writer, but above all advocate for nature and compassion.

Mahn-Chi was a fellow Chinese citizen from Taiwan, who moved to the US to practice oriental medicine, first in Northern California, and from 1982 in Santa Fe. Her work reflected her core beliefs of animal rights and a love of nature; she was truly a pioneer in Asian culture, at a time when animal protection and conservation had not reached a public awakening. Her energy and kindness will be sorely missed by her friends and colleagues, and by the natural world she held so close to her heart.

I first met Mahn-Chi when I started working for the Life Conservationist Association (LCA) in Taiwan in 1995. Back then I was an eager young activist, optimistic about the future of our movement in promoting animal welfare and maintaining ecological balance in Asia.

Mahn-Chi was an inspiration and mentor, always keen to support the younger generation when she recognised a spark of determination. In her wisdom, she knew that only the next generation could begin to reshape habits, cultures and perceptions for the better. As a vegan, she believed in equality for all living beings, a philosophy outlined in her book which was published in 2018: Right to Life: liberate non-human animals.

In 1996, I was invited to visit Mahn-Chi in Santa Fe, US, with some peers in the animal protection movement. I remember so clearly that she took us for a picnic beside a birch wood, where we ate and drank together, excited and intrigued to experience this new continent. Here was a woman from my homeland, the same generation as my parents, who clearly saw the world from a different perspective. She opened new doors to me, sowed the seeds of new possibilities, and I was eager to listen to her wisdom while my young life was just warming up.

Mahn-Chi was kind to the core, and although she clearly and openly loved companion animals with a sentimentality which at the time still seemed unusual to me, she also had a strong vision for her cause. It was a time I will always remember – a time when I began to feel a sense of belonging to a movement.

Mahn-Chi and I lost touch for more than a decade, but between us, wrapped half-way around the world, linked the roots of our connection.

As if witness to the times I had thought of her, three years ago Mahn-Chi wrote to me. She recognised me through ACTAsia’s fur-free life campaign, and wrote to say how proud she was of how far I had come. She knew me as a young activist, and now more than 30 years later, ACTAsia as a humane education organisation was testament to the wisdom she shared with me.  Despite her limited income as a pensioner, she began to donate to our education programmes, increasingly each year, supporting the cause of education for a more humane world.

Although Mahn-Chi remained dedicated to rescuing companion animals and improving the welfare of farm animals for her whole life, like so many devoted to animal welfare, she was also a visionary. For the older generation of Taiwanese-Chinese, Mahn-Chi was a pioneer. She took seriously environmental and animal welfare issues, and despite deep-rooted resentments between China and Taiwan, she understood the significance of China to the whole world, and supported us in our mission to create more caring societies with increasing financial donations.

I was hoping to visit her in July this year, but my trip was cancelled due COVID-19. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to thank Mahn-Chi  face-to-face again before she passed away. I wanted to thank her for being one of a handful of people in my life to ignite a determination in me to make the world a kinder place.

Mahn-Chi, I am so sad to lose you. But rest assured that your legacy lives on.