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Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program: China

The 2014 Woodenfish Program

Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program

Sponsored by the Woodenfish Project and Guanyin Temple

Click here to download the application form


The 2015 program will take place in the month of July. More information will be posted here late January, when we also will begin to accept applications.



Program Duration

Dates: July 1st to July 31st, 2014

Deadline of Application: April 30, 2014 (We will consider later applications on an individual basis)

Please submit your application as soon as possible.


Program Locale

The Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program (HBMLP) will take place at a temple on the outskirts of Beijing: Guanyin Temple located in Baoding, Hebei, China. All participants will be provided lodging on the temple grounds. All courses and activities will be conducted in English.

Program Overview and Objectives

The objective of this program is to promote the understanding of Chinese Buddhism by exposing the participants to the daily practice of Humanistic Buddhism within a traditional Buddhist monastery. The Buddhist Monastic Life Program provides international graduate and undergraduate students interested in the study of religion, Buddhism and/or Chinese culture first-hand experience in the lifestyle, training, and rituals of contemporary Chinese Buddhist monastics. This year, approximately 60 applicants will be selected to participate in the program. The primary goals of the program include:

  • Offering participants a chance to personally experience Buddhism as it is practiced in modern day China.
  • Providing 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

All of these goals are to be achieved in the context of the Chinese Buddhist monastic experience.

Eligibility and Selection

Woodenfish: HBMLP accepts applications from students of any country and any academic major. 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, Woodenfish also encourages anyone involved in academic work or with an interest in Buddhism to apply. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of monastics, academics, and alumni of the program. Approximately 60 students will be offered admission to the 2014 program. The final application deadline is May 15th. 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.



Program Content


  • One-month program from July 1-July 31.
  • Firsthand training in monastic customs such as sitting meditation, ethics, and liturgy.
  • Morning introduction courses in various aspects of Buddhism (Hinayana, Mahayana and Chinese Buddhism), such as history, philosophy, etiquette, rituals, Humanistic Buddhism, etc.
  • Cultural afternoons in the company of famous artists from Beijing (Classical music, Tea ceremony, Tai-chi, Calligraphy, and other Chinese arts).
  • Seven-day silent meditation retreat.
  • A cultural tour to Mt.Wutai and a weekend break to visit major cultural sites near Beijing, like The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, etc.
  • Communal activities within the monastery, such as gardening, kitchen duty, etc.
  • Daily participation in essential routine activities within a Buddhist monastery.

The program director may change the activities slightly to better accommodate the needs of the participants and/or better fulfill the program objectives.

Woodenfish: HBMLP is designed to immerse Westerners in Buddhist monastic life, and give them a first-hand experience with Chinese Buddhism that would likely be unavailable to them in their home countries.

This year’s Woodenfish Program is divided into three main segments:

1 July   All Participants Arrive

Segment I (14 days) – Orientation, Monastic Lifestyle & Classes

This part of the program begins with an orientation to intensive immersion in 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. The daily schedule which follows is based around morning meditation and evening chanting, along with the three formal meals in the main dining hall - for which instruction is provided.

After this orientation, Segment I focuses on a range of classes.  Morning classes cover a wide range of Buddhist subjects. These classes discuss the formation of the Buddhist traditions, from early Indian and Mahāyāna, into classical Chinese Buddhism, culminating in modern Humanistic Buddhism.  They provide participants with opportunities to ask questions and initiate discussions in an academic setting.  Afternoon sessions focus on applied Buddhism and Chinese culture, including calligraphy, music, mindfulness and psychology.  Some afternoons will also feature additional meditation instructions and practices, and / or community service such as gardening, cooking, dining hall service, and so on. In the evenings, group discussion will be held or senior monastics will give talks on their areas of expertise.

We will have two day-long breaks where people are free to visit Beijing or other places in the vicinity.

An example of a typical day:

5:30 AM

Wake-up Call

6:00 - 6:50 AM

Morning Meditation and Tai-chi

7:00 - 8:00 AM


8:00 - 11:00 AM

Classes: Buddhist Doctrine and Thought

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Lunch and Walking Meditation

1:30 - 3:30 PM

Classes: Applied Humanistic Buddhism

3:30 - 5:30 PM

Community Service / Meditation

6:00 - 6:30 PM

Medicine Meal (Dinner)

7:30 - 9:00 PM

Group Discussion/Sermon / Q&A

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 meditation hall for a Seven Day Chan Meditation Retreat. The retreat will be led by monastics who are meditation specialists. It is held in complete silence, and involves alternating sessions of sitting, walking and standing meditation. Students are expected to stay in the meditation hall quarters. The culmination of the retreat is a "three steps one prostration pilgrimage" through the monastery grounds.

Segment III (5 days) – Cultural Tour to Buddhist Sacred Site Mt. Wutai

Introduction to Mt. Wutai (see:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Wutai)

31 July   Departure


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.


Participants in the Woodenfish: HBMLP program are responsible for securing their own transportation to and from Baoding, China.

In addition, participants will be required to purchase two sets of uniforms and a bag which will be worn throughout the program. The cost for the uniforms and bag is $200 (USD) and these are the property of the participants.

Shared rooms and all meals are included with the program.

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.

Application content and submission

Applicants should submit their application materials directly to the HBMLP Coordinator at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Applicants are responsible for verifying with the HBMLP Coordinator that their application file is complete. A complete application consists of the following:

  • Application Form (Applications may be obtained online at http://www.woodenfish.org/hbmlp)
  • Statement of Purpose: Explain your unique qualifications for participation in the program, and list the benefits the program will provide to your religious and scholastic development. Please limit your statement to 500 words.
    • The statement of purpose is essential to the selection process and should be carefully crafted.
  • Undergraduate and/or graduate transcript(s)
    • If an official transcript cannot be easily obtained an unofficial transcript is acceptable.


Applicants will be evaluated by a committee for their potential to contribute to a better understanding of Buddhism among the American public. The evaluation criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • Familiarity with the history and doctrines of Buddhism, particularly East Asian Buddhism, whether through academic study or religious practice.  Preference will be given to students focusing on East Asian Studies and/or Religious Studies.
  • Interest in Chinese language and culture. Preference may be given to those who have already taken introductory courses in Chinese language and culture; however, knowledge of Chinese is not required and applicants without any background in Chinese are encouraged to apply.
  • Willingness and preparation to live in and adapt to the strict and disciplined lifestyle of the monastery.  Students will be expected to wake up on time, and to be punctual when attending classes or taking meals.  See “Additional Notes” for more information on restrictions and daily schedule.

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. International participants are responsible for obtaining their own Chinese visas.

Final Reports

At the end of the program, participants are requested to provide a report about their experience before they return home. This will help the staff to make the appropriate adjustments and changes for the following year’s program.

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 products are strictly prohibited on the monastery grounds. Meals cannot be adjusted for those with food allergies or special dietary needs.
  • Due to the change in diet, climate, and environment, it is strongly recommended that participants bring an immune enhancer and something to insure digestion. Digestive enzymes, acidophilus, and spirulina are recommended.
  • 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) while on the monastery grounds.
    • Do not kill.
    • Do not steal.
    • Do not lie.
    • Do not commit sexual misconduct.
    • 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.
  • 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 toe shoes/ sandals. Insect repellent is strongly encouraged.
  • Participants are also asked to limit their use of technology as much as possible: this includes ipods, laptops, etc. Please, no cell phones. A computer lab will be provided for participants to check their email on a limited basis. We ask for participants to cherish a month without much distraction.
For more information about the program, consult theFAQ

Further inquiries

If you have any questions that are not answered here, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Program Location

The program will take place at Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara) Temple in Baoding City, bordering the national capital Beijing, Hebei Province, China. All participants will be provided lodging on the monastic grounds. All courses and activities will be conducted in English—or in Chinese with English translation provided.

Guanyin monastery

Guanyin Chan Monastery is located a few hours south of Beijing, in Guogongying village of Qingyuan county,15 km northeast of Baoding City.

The temple was probably first built during the Sui or Tang dynasty (6th - 7th century), then rebuild several times before 1623, after which it experienced a period of prosperity. In the early years of the Republic (1912-1949) it was again devastated.

Guanyin Monastery was officially opened in 1992 under the new religious policy. Venerable Master Ming Kong was invited from Beijing Fayuan Monastery to assume the reconstruction mission. Despite his physical condition, within four years he accomplished the Maitreya Hall, the Avalokitesvara Hall, the Buddhist Chanting Hall, a seven storey Pagoda and the Mahavira Hall. What was once wilderness became a solemn monastery. 

When Venerable Ming Kong passed away in 1996, Master Zhen Guang succeeded him as Abbot. He dedicated himself to the improvement of the monastery in terms of construction, rules and regulations, sangha education, making Guanyin Chan Monastery a model Buddhist monastery. The temple includes a newly-built 9-storey Buddhist relics pagoda, a patriarch pagoda, reception hall, dining hall and living quarters. Moreover, the Dharma Hall of 4000 square meters and Yunshui Hall of 5000 square meters were completed in 2006. 

Guanyin Chan Monastery, home to a monastic community of about 20, covers a total of 36000 square meters, half of which is green space. With vegetation and spectacular monastic buildings, including the two pagodas, newcomers and long-time Buddhists feel immensely enriched here.


Mount Wutai (To be visited during the cultural tour - Wikipedia)

Mount Wutai

Mount Wutai (Chinese: 五台山; pinyinWǔtái Shān; literally "Five Plateau Mountain"), also known as Wutai Mountain or Qingliang Shan, is a Buddhist sacred site located at the headwaters of river Qingshui, in the Chinese northeastern province of Shanxi, surrounded by a cluster of flat-topped peaks (North, South, East, West, and Central). The North peak, called Beitai Ding or Yedou Feng, is the highest (3.061 m), and indeed the highest point in northern China.The site is home to many of China's most important monasteries and temples. Mount Wutai host over 53 sacred monasteries, and they were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.[1]


Mount Wǔtái is one of the Four Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism. Each of the four mountains are viewed as the bodhimaṇḍa(dàocháng; 道場) of one of the four great bodhisattvas. Wǔtái is the home of the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Mañjuśrī or Wénshū (文殊) in Chinese. Mañjuśrī has been associated with Mount Wutai since ancient times. Paul Williams writes:[2]

Mount Wǔtái is home to some of the oldest existent wooden buildings in China that have survived since the era of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). This includes the main hall of Nanchan Temple and the East Hall of Foguang Temple, built in 782 and 857, respectively. They were discovered in 1937 and 1938 by a team of architectural historians including the prominent early 20th century historian Liang Sicheng

For further information about Baoding and our cultural tour, please visit these sites:
Mt. Wutai:


For more information about the program, consult theFAQ

How to Apply

Please send completed application form, personal statement and transcript to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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


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