Story and photos: Minh Tran
From the old train station in the center of Da Lat, a steam train travels to Trai Mat – a picturesque suburb long known for its fields of flowers. Photographers come here to capture the layers of clouds and rays of light filtering through the pines. Linh Phuoc Pagoda is located here, just a five-minutes’ walk from the train station. It lies to the right of Highway 20 in Ward 11, Trai Mat.
Built with contributions from local Buddhists, construction began in 1949 and finished in 1952. In 1990, the Fifth Patriarch Thich Tam Vi designed and oversaw major renovations. Both local and overseas Buddhists contributed to this restoration.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda features a unique architecture style. It is sometimes called “Litter Pagoda” due to Long Hoa Vien, a 49-meter long dragon-shaped sculpture placed around a Maitreya Buddha statue statue. The scales of the dragon are made from 12,000 beer bottles. This unique recycled material leaves a strong impression on visitors.
The seven-tiered, 37-meter tall tower of Linh Thap is considered one of the tallest bell towers in Vietnam, a status approved by Vietbooks in 2008. It comprises a worshipping place for valuable deity statues, a museum and the Dai Hong Bell. Cast at the end of the Earth Rabbit year of 1999, the bell stands 4.3-meters high with a diameter of 2.3 meters and a weight of 8.5 tons. It took one year to cast and carve the bell with images of celebrated Vietnamese pagodas, a Buddha with a thousand hands and eyes, and local beauty spots.
The whole tower is decorated with swirly images of dragons, phoenixes, the four seasons and four legendary creatures, the eight ancient musical bands and the eight treasures of fairies. Hundreds of ceramic pieces from all over the country were inlaid into the roof and walls, reminding us of the imperial tombs of Nguyen dynasty monarchs such as Khai Dinh.
To the right side of the pagoda’s exterior stands a Bodhisattva statue, which is certified by the Asia Record Association as “the largest Buddha statue made of flowers”. This statue is made from 650,000 dried l golden flowers, a tribute to the famous flower fields of Da Lat. Fashioned by 30 craftsman and 600 Buddhist volunteers over 36 days, this unusual statue stands 17 meters tall and weighs about three tons.
Inside the pagoda, to the left, lies a new Bodhisattva statue. Fashioned from concrete, the 17-meter-high sculpture is exquisitely built, and is surrounded by 324 dharmakaya, or the enlightened bodies of Buddha. In addition to its two giant Bodhisattva statues, Linh Phuoc Pagoda holds the most records of any pagoda in Vietnam: Tallest bell tower, largest bell tower, pagoda decorated with the most ceramic pieces, etc. No visit to Da Lat is complete without an outing to this unique and colorful place of worship.