Shifu Shengyen was born in 1930 and became a novice at 14 in Jiangsu. During the period of Communist unrest, he fled to Taiwan with the Nationalist Army. At 30 he became a monk again and spent six years in solitary retreat. Later on he studied in Japan and earned a doctorate in Buddhist literature from Rissho University in Tokyo. Afterwards he began to teach in the United States and followed his teacher in guiding the Nongcun Monastery in Taiwan. He also founded Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM). To promote Buddhist Studies and education of the monastics was a main concern of Shifu Shengyen. He established the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies and Dharma Drum University. In recent years he also engaged in public dialogues with leading figures in the fields of technology, art, and culture, and has collaborated with other religions.
Shifu Shengyen is a lineage holder of both Linji (Rinzai) (as a Dharma heir of Master Lingyuan) and Caodong (Soto) (as a Dharma heir of Master Dongchun). He has both strengthened the essence of Huatou Chan and revived the practice of Silent Illumination (Mozhao) in the Caodong Tradition. Dharma Drum Mountain (Fagushan) is an order of Chinese Humanistic Chan-Buddhism, founded in Indian Buddhism and inspired by Tibetan Buddhism. As in engaged Buddhism in the West, it combines individual practice with social engagement in the world and maintains several relief organisations.
Shifu Shengyen passed away on February 3, 2009.