Communist ideology continues to invade places of worship across China, as folk religion temples are repurposed to propagate President Xi’s Thought.
by Wang Yong
Ancestral temples—shrines in rural areas where people pay tribute to their forefathers— were demolished during the Cultural Revolution as relics of the “Four Olds”: old customs, culture, habits, and ideas. Under President Xi Jinping’s rule, the remaining ancestral temples are being taken over by the government and are turned into propaganda centers.
The Guo Clan Ancestral Temple in Cengshan village, administered by Yongfeng county’s Shima town in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, was built in the eighth year of Emperor Zhengtong (1436-1449) during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Occupying an area of 1,320 square meters, the temple has been renovated three times, preserving its original structures.
But in the second half of last year, the village committee, on orders by the Shima town government, converted the temple into a Party propaganda base, spending 600,000 RMB (about $ 87,000). Although the temple’s signboard remains over its entrance, the core socialist values have been etched on the outside wall, and other propaganda slogans have been displayed inside. Xi Jinping’s catchphrases, like “Don’t forget the original intention; keep the mission in mind” and “Let’s build China’s Dream together,” have replaced the temple’s memorial tablets.
“The ancestral temple was a place to commemorate our ancestors, but we were forced to turn it into a CCP propaganda center,” a village resident said helplessly.
The Yongmin Public Ancestral Temple, nearly 874 square meters in size, in Yongfeng’s Meikeng village was built in the 1840s. In March last year, the local government converted it into a “Civilization Practice Station for a New Era” as part of the nationwide project, launched by the CCP in July 2018, to promote Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Huang Kunming, the head of the Publicity Department of the CCP, emphasized that the project should “solidify and strengthen the Party’s publicity and ideological work at the grassroots level” and was a necessary measure to promote Xi Jinping’s Thought and “instill it in people’s minds.” Numerous places of worship have been converted into such practice stations across China.
The Yongmin Temple is now filled with various propaganda slogans and books, like Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.
The Chaoyi Public Ancestral Temple, spanning a history of 155 years in Yongfeng’s Shangxi township, has also been rectified. Its walls are now covered with Mao Zedong’s quotations and propaganda posters, such as “Communism is a heavenly paradise” and “People’s Commune is a heavenly ladder.” Both these slogans were promoted during the Great Leap Forward, a campaign launched by Chairman Mao in 1958 to make China a “prosperous socialist society” with the help of people’s communes—the largest collective units in rural China—that were supposed to help “ascend to the heavenly paradise of communism.”
According to local sources, 13 other ancestral temples in Yongfeng county have been similarly repurposed.