Visitors enjoy tea and conversation with a monk at the Youngpyung Temple in South Chungcheong Province. / Courtesy of the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism
By Do Je-hae
Templestays are hosted throughout the year but the Jogye Order, running many of Korea's oldest and most prominent Buddhist temples, recently announced a special program geared to springtime visitors.
One of the special features of the springtime program is the opportunity to learn to make dishes with spring vegetables that form the main part of the increasingly popular temple diet.
The spring templestays will run at participating temples starting Feb. 25 through April. With the 5-day school week starting in March, temples are planning to organize more family-oriented activities.
"The springtime program consists of activities geared toward bringing participants closer to nature, through trekking, harvesting wild greens and experience making temple food", said Chun Young-eun, a PR official with the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism.
With a focus on temple cuisine, these programs are in line with the Jogye Order's efforts this year to globalize temple food, as part of plans celebrating the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the templestay program ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan.
Korea's temple food has been gaining popularity among healthy eaters within and outside the country.
The Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism has been seeking ways to modernize the recipes and bring them closer to the public at home and abroad. One of the international activities includes the presentation of temple cuisine at ITB Berlin, a leading travel trade show to take place from March 7 to 11.
The diet eaten by monks and visitors at Buddhist temples, is mainly made with wild vegetables, cultivated in mountainous areas and cooked with light seasonings to retain the original flavor of the greens.
Templestay programs usually include monastic formal meals with healthy, vegetarian dishes; tea ceremonies; morning and evening chanting; and "Seon" or Zen meditation. The communal Buddhist meal or "balwoo gongyang" is a unique way of eating in Korean temples, where food is consumed in total silence and not a single grain of rice is wasted.
Here is an introduction to some other temples with spring templestay programs.
Golgul Temple, South Gyeongsang Province
Located about 20 kilometers outside of Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom, the temple is surrounded by the beauty of undisturbed nature. The temple has organized a programs for spring visitors such as trekking to nearby Mt. Hamwol and Mt. Toham and visit to a village that specializes in making "Hanji", traditional Korean paper. Participants will also learn to make pancakes decorated with wild flowers. The program runs during March and April.
Naeso Temple, North Jeolla Province
Naeso Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the nation located in the district of Buan, North Jeolla Province. It was founded during the Baekje Kingdom in 633. The temple provides trekking courses through nearby Mt. Naebyun starting Feb. 25 for a two-day program that also includes lessons on making spring vegetable dishes.
Geumsun Temple in Gugi-dong, Seoul
With 600 years of history, Geumsun Temple is famous for its beautiful natural scenery in the Mt. Bukhan National Park, and specializes as a Seon meditation temple. Geumsun Temple is easily accessible to Seoulites, located near the Blue House and Gyeongbok Palace. Visitors can take part in a two-day program that includes the traditional 1,000 bows for cleansing the mind and wishing good luck for people with school, marriage and job plans. Tea ceremonies and temple cuisine lessons are also included. The program starts Feb. 25.
Other temples with spring programs are Sudo Temple in Gyeonggi Province, Youngpyung Temple in South Chungcheong Province and Okcheon Temple in South Gyeongsang Province, among others.
For more information, visit www.templestay.com or call 02)2031-2000.
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