Korean Temple Food
With Gratitude for Life and Prayers for Peace

History of
Korean Temple Food

Korea’s temple food
From the tables of royal palaces to the general public

When Buddhism was officially sanctioned as Silla’s national religion,
Buddhist cuisine prospered and spread into every corner of the country.
According to The Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, King Beopheung of Silla
proclaimed a law in 529 A.D to prohibit slaughtering of animals.
The Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms also states that in 599 A.D. King Beop,
the 29h King of Baekjae, also ordered all households to release birds and hawks
in captivity, burn all fishing tools and stop slaughtering of animals.

The royal court and ruling class of the Three Kingdoms adopted and
encouraged vegetarian life style and as a result, Buddhism started to deeply
influence Korea’s food culture. Scholars conjecture that the Buddhist cuisine
would have flourished during the Goryeo dynasty but unfortunately no
record remains to support this speculation.

Chinese Chan Buddhism, along with its strong work ethics, was introduced to
Korea in the 9th and 10th centuries. The term Chan was transliterated as Seon,
and Seon Buddhism was initially welcomed by the powerful families in rural
areas and Seon monasteries settled deep in the mountains. While resources were
scarce and external donations were hard to come by, Seon Buddhism’s
independent way to farm their

own supply of food was essential for survival. In the process, physical labor
became more than just one rule in monastic codes and grew to embody the core
value of Seon Buddhism.

Korean temple food evolved around the agricultural products that best suit
the local climate and monks themselves could grow. The Confucian Joseon
dynasty suppressed Buddhism, but it still found its way into ordinary citizen’s
food culture.

When your knees are frozen like ice, do not think about resting in warmth
When your stomach is pierced by pain of hunger, do not think of eating

Balsim suhaeng jang (An Essay on Arising the Aspiration for Enlishtenment),
by Wonhyo (617-686, Buddhist Master from the Silla period)