The Mosaic Madness of the Linh Phước Pagoda
To the east of Dalat, in the village of Trại Mát, you’ll find one of Vietnam’s most amazing temples. Completely covered in carefully-arranged shards of broken glass and pottery, the insane Pagoda of Linh Phước provides a sight unlike any other.
We had already seen the Crazy House and the Crazy Embroidery Village, so I wasn’t too surprised to find that Dalat also boasts a “Crazy Temple”. I think there’s something in the water, here, because pandemic psychosis is the most likely explanation behind Dalat’s … creativity.
Entering the grounds of the pagoda, your eyes will likely need a moment to adjust to the colorful, shining shock of the place. But once you’re able to focus on details, there’s a lot to appreciate. The long, curvy dragon, whose scales have been cobbled together from broken glass; the eighteen-meter high statue of the Bodhisattva Quan An, made of flowers; the seven-story pagoda, every inch of which has been covered in ceramic pieces; dozens of golden statues, and beautifully-carved figures of wood.
We first climbed the stupa, all the way to the top. Visitors are encouraged to write down their wishes and affix them to the stupa’s bell, then send them to Buddha by ringing the bell three times. Every floor in the stupa has a different figure to worship, and most of the visitors were kneeling in front of each before continuing to the next flight. We just kind of stepped over all of them, timing our strides with their bows.
The main hall of the pagoda is just as outrageously decorated as the stupa, and it didn’t take long for us to develop mosaic-fatigue. You know what a good cure for mosaic-fatigue is? That’s right: nightmarish scenes of torment and torture, how did you guess? Descending the stairs across from the temple, we entered a dark gallery displaying and selling wooden statues. Hidden in the far corner, past a demonic gate, a second set of stairs led into the depths of Buddhist hell.
If Walt Disney had had a demented and infinitely less-talented younger brother, he might have designed a place like this. The automatons were jerky demons with blinky LED eyes jabbing pitchforks into sinners, disemboweling, skinning or boiling them alive, while the anguished chords of death cries filled the air. It was jarring. Upstairs, we had been thinking, “look at all these lovely mosaics! The Vietnamese are a bright and cheerful people!” And that might be true, but now we had learned that there’s a dark side, too.
We had a great time at the Linh Phước. If you don’t have your own transport, the best way to get here is by boarding the antiquated train from the Dalat Train Station, which runs to Trại Mát a few times a day.