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Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program: China

Woodenfish Program 2015


Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program (HBMLP)

Beijing and Mt. Wutai


The Woodenfish Project has since 2002 provided Westerners with unique and authentic first-hand experience with Chinese Buddhist Monasticism. This summer we are going back to the yellow robes and pagodas of China and invite you to join!


Click here for our online application form


Download our poster/flyer in letter and A4


Youtube video


Program Duration

Dates: July 1st to July 28th, 2015

Deadline of Application: April 30, 2015

We will consider applications on a rolling basis. Please submit your application as soon as possible. Late applications will only be accepted if there are vacancies.


Program Locale

The program will take place in two temples located in the outskirts of Beijing: Longfu Temple (隆福寺) and Doushuai Temple (兜率寺); and Pushou Temple (普寿寺) on Mt. Wutai (五台山), the largest nunnery in China!


Program Overview and Objectives

The objective of the program is to promote understanding of Chinese Buddhism by exposing the participants to the daily life, practice and theory of Buddhism within a traditional Buddhist monastic setting.  


The Woodenfish HBMLP provides international graduate and undergraduate students interested in the study of religion, Buddhism and/or Chinese culture first-hand experience with the lifestyle, training, and rituals of contemporary Chinese Buddhist monastics. Moreover it includes academic lectures and discussions on Buddhist history and doctrine giving the students the appropriate framework for the experience.


The primary goals of the program include:

  • Offering participants a chance to personally experience Buddhism as it is practiced in modern day China.
  • Provide courses on Buddhism and Chinese culture taught by Buddhist monastics and lay scholars.
  • Introducing participants to the concepts and practices of Humanistic Buddhism
  • Experiencing and reflecting on Buddhist monastic discipline and traditions
  • Exposing participants to Chinese culture and language
  • Cultivating the mind through meditation and mindfulness in all activity.


Program Content

Key elements 

Training in monastic customs and practices such as sitting meditation, ethics, and liturgy.

  • Morning exercises like Taiji (Taichi) and moving meditation.
  • Lectures in various aspects of Buddhism (Early Buddhism, Mahayana and Chinese Buddhism), such as history, philosophy, etiquette, rituals, Humanistic Buddhism, etc.
  • Cultural workshops and performances in the company of famous artists from Beijing.
  • In previous years we have offered workshops in Chinese classical music, tea ceremony, kongfu, calligraphy, and other Chinese traditional arts.
  • Communal activities within the monastery and chances to interact with monastic’s and lay people in the monastery
  • Seven-day silent meditation retreat.
  • Visit  to  one  of  the  most  sacred  mountains  in  China,  Mt.  Wutai.
  • All activities will either be conducted in English or English translation will be provided. No prior knowledge of the Chinese language is needed.

The details of the program are due to change to better accommodate the needs of the participants and better fulfill the program objectives. The content described here is based on previous years’ program and not meant as a detailed description of the 2015 program.


The Woodenfish Program is divided into three main segments:


Segment I (2-3 weeks) – Orientation, Monastic Lifestyle & Classes

This part of the program begins with an orientation to the monastic lifestyle:   Group assembly; appropriate greetings to monastics, teachers and other monastic residents; shrine, meditation and dining hall etiquette; dormitory rules; and basic standards of Buddhist monastic ethics.   The students will be exposed to the same disciplinary expectations as the monks and nuns of the monastery.  

Morning classes that cover a wide range of Buddhist subjects. The classes are meant provide participants with opportunities to ask questions and initiate discussions. The morning classes will have an academic focus and will be thought by academics.

Afternoon sessions focus on applied Buddhism and Chinese culture. Some afternoons will also feature additional meditation instructions and practices, and / or community service such as cleaning, cooking, dining hall service and so on.  

In the evenings, group discussion will be held or senior monastics will give talks.

There will be half-day or whole-day breaks where the participants can sleep in and relax.

An example of a typical day:

5:30 AM

Wake-up Call

6:00 - 6:50 AM

Morning Meditation and Taiji

7:00 - 8:00 AM


8:00 - 11:00 AM

Classes: Buddhist Doctrine and Thought

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM





Workshops and community service

6:00 - 6:30 PM

Medicine Meal (Dinner)

7:30 - 9:00 PM

Dharma talk/ discussion

9:00 - 9:30 PM


10:00 PM

Lights Out


Segment II (7 days) – Chan Meditation Retreat

With the basic monastic etiquette and lifestyle in hand, the students will now be prepared to enter the Seven Day Chan Meditation Retreat. The retreat will be led by monastics and other meditation specialists. It is held in complete silence, and involves alternating sessions of sitting, walking and standing meditation. The culmination of the retreat is a "three steps one prostration pilgrimage" through the monastery grounds  or  a  close-by  sacred  site.


Segment III – Cultural Tour to the Buddhist Sacred Site Mt. Wutai

This segment includes visits to temples and other important sights. Some of it will be conducted in group, some will be free time. Minor expenses for entrance and food might occur. Details about the culture tour will be provided later.  



Room and board at the temple will be provided free of charge to participants for the duration of the program. Students will live in guest housing on the monastery grounds. Most meals will be taken in the main dining hall with the assembly of monks and nuns, and students will be taught proper monastic dining etiquette. Due to the intensive nature of the program, dependents (spouses, children, and/or partners) will not be able to accompany participants.



The program, including room and board, is free of charge. We only  expect you  to purchase two sets of uniforms, a bag, a set of eating utensils etc. which will be used throughout the program. The cost for this is $250 (USD) and the participants are free to bring this home after the program.  Participants in the program are responsible for their own transportation to and from China.


College Credit (Optional)

Whittier College (Los Angeles) will cross list the Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program in its curriculum. The undergraduate level course is called Phil 307 Chinese Buddhism: Philosophy and Practice and will give 3.0 credits. Participants are able to enroll in this course and upon completion of the program, can transfer the credits from Whittier College to the academic institution they attend. We will charge an additional fee for this.  Please  contact  us  for  further  details.


Application content and submission


We prefer that you use our online application form. In addition, we ask you to send your transcript to us at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



If there are any difficulties you can send the following to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

  • Application Form
  • Statement of Purpose: Explain your qualifications and motivation for participation in the program, and list the benefits the program will provide to your personal, religious and academic development. Please limit your statement to 500 words.  
  • Undergraduate and/or graduate transcript(s). If an official transcript cannot be easily obtained an unofficial transcript is acceptable.
  • A short recommendation email from your adviser or professor will also benefit your chances of admission, however it is not required.

Applications will be reviewed on a ROLLING BASIS, and decisions will be made within two to three weeks after the submission of one’s application. Since the selection is very competitive, applicants are highly encouraged to apply early to have a better opportunity for admission.


Eligibility and Selection

We accept application from people regardless of religious background, race, country of origin. Applicants from diverse academic disciplines and religious backgrounds are encouraged to apply. While a majority of participants are working toward an undergraduate or graduate degree, we encourages anyone with an interest in Buddhism to apply. Most of our participants are between 18 and 35 of age, but we make exceptions.  Applications will be reviewed by a panel of monastics and staff members. 


The final application deadline is April 30th. Applications will be reviewed on a ROLLING BASIS, and decisions will be made within two to three weeks after the submission of one’s application. Since the selection is very competitive, applicants are highly encouraged to apply early to have a better opportunity for admission.


Additional Information

The Woodenfish Project is not responsible for securing visas for participants, and each participant should confirm specific requirements for his or her country.

All meals served in the monastery are vegetarian. Meat and fish products are strictly prohibited on the monastery grounds. Meals cannot be adjusted for those with food allergies or special dietary needs. Remember that wheat and other gluten based products and peanuts are staple in the Chinese diet.


There  will  be  a  registered  nurse  present  during  the  program,  but  the  participant  in  required  to  bring  her/his  own  medicine  and  make  the  staff  nurse  aware  of  any  and  all  (possible)  medical  issues.  


Alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs are strictly prohibited on the monastery grounds. Violation of these prohibitions may result in expulsion from the program. For those participants who smoke, an allowance will be made for nicotine gum or patches.


Participants are expected to observe the Five Precepts (basic lay Buddhist ethics plus sexual abstinence) during  the  program.

  • Do not kill.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not lie.
  • Do not commit sexual conduct.
  • Do not consume intoxicants.

The temple venue is a monastery housing monks and nuns; participants are expected to act appropriately and modestly in this environment. Please be mindful of interactions with the opposite sex. They are also reminded that words have power and that the effects of their words should be considered before they speak.


Participants are not required to shave their heads nor wear monastic robes as other monastics-in-training. Women in particular are encouraged to not shave, as it is a sign of deep commitment in the Chinese culture, and might be seen as cheapening the sacrifice of the Chinese nuns. Men will have to option of shaving their heads.


Participants are expected to keep a clean appearance. Women are asked to keep hair tied back. Men are asked to maintain their facial hair regularly.


Participants are responsible for bringing personal care products, and appropriate and modest summer clothing. White socks and white undergarments must be worn when in uniform, as well as closed heel shoes/ sandals. Insect repellent is strongly recommended.


Participants are also asked to limit their use of technology as much as possible: this includes iPods, laptops, cell phones etc. A computer pooling will be provided for participants to check their email on a limited basis. We ask for participants to cherish a month with less distraction. Communication with friends and family at home should also be kept at a minimum.


The accepted applicant will receive a pre-departure guide with detailed information about the program.



For more information on Woodenfish, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



© 2015 The Woodenfish Project

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