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What to Expect at a Korean Buddhist Temple

Photo by Vanessa West

Are you interested in world religions or looking to improve your meditation practice? A visit to a Korean Buddhist temple may be just what you are looking for! From the unique coastal Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan to the UNESCO World Heritage site Bulguksa, these structures are sacred reminders of Korea’s history, beautiful examples of architecture, and important places of worship.

Photo by Eun Ha

Temple Etiquette

• Modest clothing is recommended in temples to show respect. However, don’t be surprised to see locals and tourists alike wearing shorts if the weather is warm. Remove shoes and hats when entering any building.
• Never touch a nun or monk. Although tourists are welcome at the temple, this is where the nuns and monks live and work. Respect their privacy, and avoid opening closed doors.
• Photography is permitted, but watch for signs indicating where it is inappropriate, such as inside halls where people might be praying or meditating.
• If you choose to participate in any praying or meditating ritual, stay to the back or the sides instead of directly in front of the Buddha statue. This area is reserved for nuns and monks. • In general, respect the tranquility of the temple and its surroundings. Talk softly, and avoid smoking, drinking, running, and playing music.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata

Temple Stay Tips

• Expect to be served traditional Korean temple cuisine. This will include vegetables, kimchi, and dairy products, but no other animal products. Sorry, meat lovers! Korean Buddhism prohibits the consumption of meat, so this will be something you’ll need to give up for the duration of your stay.
• A uniform, typically consisting of a plain vest and pants, will be provided for you. This is to help you leave worldly things behind as you prepare for the meditation practices you will participate in. However, you may be required to bring a few necessary items such as toiletries and comfortable walking shoes, so check ahead of time before arriving at the temple.
• While a temple stay can be a spiritually rejuvenating experience, don’t expect it to be particularly relaxing! Many temple stays require that the participants wake up at three a.m. to begin the day’s activities.

Photo by Suzi Kim

To learn more about temple stays and what is expected and recommended at the temple you’re visiting, visit
—Vanessa West