The CCP is spending exorbitant sums of money and workforce to eliminate all outdoor religious symbols by demolishing or concealing them.
by Yao Zhangjin
Located in Nanchong city in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Lingyun Mountain is a national 4A-level scenic area and a Buddhists and Taoists pilgrimage site, adorned with thousands of outdoor religious statues and cliff-carved sculptures. But in its campaign to annihilate religions, the CCP has recently covered all these symbols of faith with high artistic value, reportedly, spending at least eight million RMB (about $ 1,130,000).
Carved sculpture of reclining Buddha concealed
In September 2018, all religious elements were ordered to be purged from the scenic area. Its seven large outdoor statues and all smaller ones were covered, and all symbols, signboards, even the signs with directions to the icons were all removed. All promotional content regarding the religious statues was ordered to be deleted from the scenic area’s official website and other online platforms.
The area’s renowned 72-meter-long carving of reclining Buddha that depicts the story of Shakyamuni Buddha’s death has been completely covered so no one can see it.
A local villager told Bitter Winter that it cost two million RMB (about $ 282,500) to hide the reclining Buddha, even more than the amount spent to carve it.
A tourist at the scenic area commented that the government is wasting workforce and resources, squanders taxpayers’ money to hide religious sculptures.
Planned 99-meter-tall Buddha statue left unfinished
The most famous attraction of Lingyun Mountain is an unfinished sculpture of Amitabha Buddha. The carving was initially designed to measure 99 meters in height and feature 9,999 Buddha statuettes carved in the surrounding cliff walls to create “Ten Thousand Buddhas.”
Upon its completion, the sculpture would have been unrivaled worldwide. But the construction work had to be ceased after completing only the upper body of the Buddha (measuring about 48 meters in height) and over 7,000 statuettes because the government designated it as a focus of its campaign to eliminate outdoor religious statues.
Now, workers are rushing to complete the project to conceal the sculpture, expected to be completed by the end of October. According to sources, the estimated cost of “rectifying” the Buddha statue is 5.7 million RMB (about $ 805,000).
In other similar cases in China, explosives have been used to demolish large cliff-carved religious icons, not just cover them. But according to sources, this method was not used in the case of Lingyun Mountain because the authorities feared that explosives would likely cause a landslide or other disaster.
More than 130 Buddhist statues “disappeared”
Other religious statues in the scenic area have also been disappeared. Among them, 33 Guanyin sculptures, 24 Arhat stone carvings, and 11 Buddhist grotto statues have been walled in, with bamboo planted outside, making the figures invisible.
Five large statues used to adorn the courtyard of the Lingyun Mountain Taoist Temple but they were concealed by a newly-built pavilion, leaving behind only an empty-looking building with no religious symbols in sight.
In front of Sanqing Hall (the Hall of Three Purities), a statue of Cihang Zhenren, the “Perfected Person” in Taoism, was first blocked with wooden planks, and only the statue’s head was visible, which has created a rather ridiculous look. It was later sealed off with sheets of black galvanized iron.
Sixty sculptures of the Chinese zodiac signs that used to stand in front of the Eight Diagrams Terrace were also concealed.
Residents in the surrounding area told Bitter Winter that local officials were intimidating them and threatening to deploy special police and arrest anyone who dared to obstruct the work of concealing the statues.
“The common people are angry, but they don’t dare to speak out. Anyone who does will have problems. During the era of Mao Zedong, temples were demolished, and bodhisattvas’ statues destroyed. The same thing is happening now. As soon as Xi Jinping gives an order, who dares to say ‘no’?” a villager told Bitter Winter.