Woodenfish 2019 info and application

Buddhism around the World China Mahayana Retreats

Woodenfish 2019 

Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program​​

What's it like? Watch scenes from previous years! https://youtu.be/Z9C-CHMo32U

What do participants have to say? Read testimonials!

Program Duration

Dates: July 1st to July 28th, 2019

Applications for the 2019 Summer Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program will open February 1st, with a final deadline of April 30th.​

We will consider applications on a rolling basis. Please submit your application as soon as possible to increase your chance of acceptance. If you have particular questions, please fully read the detailed information below and refer to our Frequently Asked Questions

Program Locale

In order to provide our students with a truly unique experience, our program is hosted by a different monastery each year.  This year's monastery will be chosen based on multiple factors, including location, historical significance, cleanliness, safety, dining and classroom facilities, as well as room availability.  The last several days of the program will be spent touring local Buddhist cultural sights, including a half-day pilgrimage on one of China's sacred mountains, such as Mt. Wutai or Mt. Putuo.  We will post updates to this page as this year's location is determined.​​​​

Zhaoming Temple - Location of HBMLP 2018


Program Overview and Objectives

The objective of the program is to promote the understanding of Chinese Buddhism by exposing 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 Chinese culture with a first-hand experience with the lifestyle, training, and rituals of contemporary Chinese Buddhist monastics. Moreover, it includes academic lectures and discussions in order to provide the participants with historical and doctrinal background for understanding the Chinese Buddhist 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.

  • Cultivation of the mind through meditation.

Program Content

Key elements

  • Training in Ch'an monastic customs and practices such as sitting meditation, ethics, and liturgy.

  • Introductory courses in various aspects of Buddhism (Early Buddhism, Mahayana and Chinese Buddhism), such as history, philosophy, etiquette, rituals, Humanistic Buddhism, etc.

  • Cultural workshops with experienced Chinese artists. 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 monastics and lay people in the monastery.

  • Daily participation in essential routine activities within a Buddhist monastery.

  • Five to seven days of silent meditation.

  • A cultural tour to one of the five sacred Buddhist mountains in China.

  • All activities will either be conducted in English or English translation will be provided.

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 2019 program.


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.​


Every accepted student will receive a scholarship that covers room, board and other expenses during the program. Beyond this we ask that participants pay a fee for two sets of tailored uniforms, a bag and a set of eating bowls which will be used throughout the program. This amounts to $250 (USD) and will be the property of the student.

Participants in the program are responsible for their own transportation to and from China.

College Credit (Optional)

Whittier College (Los Angeles, California) will cross-list the Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program in its course offerings. 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. Contact us at  hbmlp@woodenfish.org for information on application procedures and fees.

Application content and submission

A complete application consists of the following:

  • 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. This is an important part of the application and we ask the applicant to spend some time on this. Successful statements are generally 300 - 500 words. The statement will be submitted in the application form.

  • Undergraduate and/or graduate transcript(s). If an official transcript cannot be easily obtained an unofficial transcript is acceptable. If you graduated more than 8 years ago, this is not needed. The transcript should be sent to applications@woodenfish.org.

  • A short recommendation email from your advisor, professor, employer, colleague, or a Woodenfish alumni will also benefit your chances of admission, however, it is not required. This should be sent toapplications@woodenfish.org.​

Eligibility and Selection

We accept applications 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 encourage anyone with an interest in Buddhism to apply. Most of our participants are between 18 and 40 years of age.

Applications will be reviewed by a panel of monastics and staff members. In the committee's evaluation, emphasis will be placed on personal motivation and how the experience with the program can benefit your future goals, both professional and personal.

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 (please leave some more time for early applications). Since the selection is very competitive, applicants are highly encouraged to apply early​

Additional Information

  • The Woodenfish Foundation is not responsible for securing visas for participants, and each participant should confirm specific requirements for his or her home country to the People’s Republic of China.

  • 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. Note that wheat and other gluten-based products and peanuts are staples in the Chinese diet.

  • 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 engage in sexual conduct

    • Do not consume intoxicants (nicotine patches/gum are allowed)

  • The temple venue is a monastery housing monks and nuns; participants are expected to act appropriately and modestly in this environment. 

  • Participants are not required to shave their heads nor wear monastic robes as other monastics-in-training. Men will have to option of shaving their heads. Women may get the same option, depending on how conservative the specific monastery is.

  • Participants are responsible for bringing personal care products, and appropriate and modest summer clothing. 

  • Participants are also asked to limit their use of technology as much as possible: this includes iPods, laptops, cell phones etc. Communication with friends and family at home should also be kept at a minimum, with no communication during the Silent Retreat.

  • This program is scholarly and anthropological in nature, and all applicants are welcome, regardless of personal culture or religious beliefs.  (In fact, we frequently have students who are devout Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, etc.)  This is not intended to be a "conversion" program.  However, out of respect for our monastic hosts, please be aware that participants are expected to fully participate in all activities, including chanting, bowing, prostrations during the pilgrimage, attending dharma talks, etc.  

Accepted applicants will receive a Pre-Departure Guide with detailed information about the program and suggestions on how to best prepare. ​​​​​


For more information on Woodenfish and any questions or concerns not covered in our FAQ, please contact us athbmlp@woodenfish.org.  Dietary or medical questions may be directed to our nurse at kim@woodenfish.org.

Older Post Newer Post