From the International Buddhist Temple to the many large, faith-based sites lining East Richmond’s Highway to Heaven—aka No. 5 Road—Richmond is studded with intriguing, architecturally remarkable religious complexes. Many of these welcome respectful visitors exploring the region on their own self-guided cultural days out.

In this second entry in our themed series, we dropped into LingYen Mountain Temple, a spectacular flare-roofed Buddhist monastery site on the Highway to Heaven. An immersive sensory feast that feels like stepping into another world, it’s a fascinating place to visit whether or not you’re religiously inclined.

LingYen Mountain Temple - Photo: John LeeCourtyard of the temple complex. | Photo: John Lee

What to see

At the intersection of No. 5 Road and Williams Road, the first building visitors encounter here is the impressive Buddha Hall. A lion-flanked entry staircase leads up to this vast red pavilion, and it’s topped with an orange terracotta roof accented by steeply wing-tipped edges. A serious piece of architecture that echoes the traditional buildings of ancient China, it was actually completed and opened in the late 1990s.

This main building may seem a little intimidating, but if you follow the regular visitors through a ground level side entrance, you enter a wide, brick-paved courtyard that serves as the site’s warm and welcoming heart. Strung with a ceiling of red lanterns, it’s scented with rich incense and soundtracked by the calming murmur of recorded chants.

Surrounded on all four sides by grand, flare-roofed buildings, the centerpiece of the courtyard is a small, terracotta-topped gazebo where locals come to burn incense and pray. On my visit, there was constant movement around this spot, especially when the site’s brown-and-black robed resident monks entered the area.

LingYen Mountain Temple - Photo: John LeeDragon detail in the courtyard of LingYen Mountain Temple. | Photo: John Lee

The background story

Lining the courtyard at LingYen Mountain Temple, there are several detailed informational panels telling the story of how this complex came to be. The sister site of a monastery in Taiwan—there’s a large wall painting of this mountain-framed temple in the courtyard here—Lower Mainland Buddhists had been gathering to pray in temporary spaces around the region for many years.

But after a surge of donations, impressive blueprints were drawn-up for a graceful temple and monastery complex. Construction began in the mid-1990s and it wasn’t long before the impressive, authentically traditional-looking site—with its own tranquil garden—was completed and opened to the public.

The main hall

Climbing an internal staircase from the courtyard, I found the cloister-like walkway that goes around the perimeter of the Buddha Hall. This sumptuously decorated hall is for public worship—there’s another large hall on the site that’s reserved for monastic residents—which means you can remove your shoes and enter. You can also simply peer through the expansive windows at the building’s jewel-like interior.

Inside the red-carpeted hall are three towering golden statues: a beatific Buddha flanked by his two main disciples. Outside the hall, a welcoming sign proclaims “We would like to bless all the devotees and visitors with happiness at the sight of the Buddha, peacefulness and prosperity, elimination of your karma-obstructions and the growth of a good root.”

LingYen Mountain Temple - Photo: John LeeStairway to the Buddha Hall. | Photo: John Lee

The garden

Good roots are also part of the action immediately behind the temple complex. With a perimeter of spherical yellow lanterns—and some of the best camera-friendly views of the building—the compact garden here is lined with crunchy pebble walkways that snake between a series of symmetrically shaped flowerbeds.

Backed by a stand of fruit trees and a small gazebo shrine, it’s a peaceful spot to explore. And if you find the flowerbed that has three small pools topped with little lily pads, bend down for a closer look: it’s home to a small colony of well-camouflaged frogs, living happily in the shadow of this grand Buddhist temple complex.

LingYen Mountain Temple - Photo: John LeeView of the temple complex from the garden. | Photo: John Lee

If you go

Located at 10060 No. 5 Road, LingYen Mountain Temple is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm. There’s plenty of parking here but the site is also easily reached via transit: the number 408 bus from Richmond-Brighouse Station stops just across the street. You can enter the site for free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Keep in mind that this is a working place of worship and visitors need to respect some basic rules—adhere to the signs around the temple and you won’t go wrong. Click here for additional information on visiting on the site.