|The Crazy Monk ~ Dalat, Vietnam||<< Prev | Slide 148 of 176 | Next >>|
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To keep from reconstructing it, here's the story as it went home in an email during my trip:
If the Hang Nga Guesthouse alone isn't enough to make Dalat truly unique [another story I won't include here], the "Crazy Monk" of Lam Ty Ni Pagoda surely seals the deal. Established in 1961, Lam Ty Ni today is home to just one monk, a 35-year resident named Vien Thuc (hmm...one monk in the entire pagoda...). It turns out that Mr. Thuc is an artist - a very, very prolific artist. Out behind the pagoda, set amidst a pleasant garden, is his "workshop" - a series of rooms housing (by his own estimate) over 100,000 works of art! Whether anyone has confirmed the accuracy of that number, I don't know - but I wouldn't have argued if it had been a million. The place is unbelievable. There are rows upon rows of paintings in wooden frames. Many of the paintings are oil; some are ink. Subjects are often related to Buddhist thought or Mr. Thuc himself. He seems especially fond of painting his pagoda and self-portraits where he's depicted in the act of - what else would you expect - painting. There are also countless pieces including words alone - poetry of sorts, words of peace, love, Zen, etc. - and enough abstract ink blots to supply every psychiatrist alive with all the Rorschach blots they'd ever need.
There's also a bit of sculpture, though my guess is he found the paintings easier to churn out. And lest you think the stuff is a bunch of garbage, I should point out that Vien Thuc has exhibited his work in five or six countries (including the United States) and sells his work at pretty hefty prices (especially by local standards). Local tour guides have dubbed him the "business monk," as he's actually become rather well-to-do. When I visited, two girls from London bought a wedding gift for about $50 or $60 (their painting of choice was one of my favorites as well). The monk himself was intelligent (he speaks five languages), pleasant, and - as you might imagine - a wee bit eccentric. Money he raises now will fund a trip to Scotland later this summer. Despite liking several of his pieces, I decided against making a purchase - both for the difficulty in transport and the fact that I actually don't think he's the next Van Gogh. Still, my two hours perusing his work and wandering around the garden were fun - and certainly not something I'll get to experience anywhere else!
Another famous place in Dalat is the Lam Ty Ni Pagoda, home of Vien Thuc, the mad monk.
You walk through the pagoda to the back garden, where room after room is filled with Mr. Thuc's paintings. A lot of them are just sayings about peace and love and zen and such, with a few bits of scenery mixed in. It's hard to know just what to make of this, but he is famous and popular. He is also widely believed to be the richest man in Dalat.