CCP’s frenetic campaign to demolish outdoor Buddhist statues has resulted in yet another bizarre spectacle. Religious sculptures in cemeteries also face destruction.
by Yao Zhangjin
Under the CCP’s rampant campaign to eradicate large outdoor Buddhist icons, the statue of Nanhai Guanyin (or Guanyin of the Southern Seas), the Goddess of Mercy in Chinese Buddhism, was supplanted with a large teapot sculpture in Jiangyou, a county-level city in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
According to an employee at the Zhonghua Dongtian Scenic Area, where the statue stands, the CCP uses satellites to locate outdoor religious statues in its nationwide campaign to demolish them. And this is how the provincial government of Sichuan detected the Nanhai Guanyin statue. It was ordered to be removed, and in July, a teapot with dragons was built in its place.
“Drinking tea is part of traditional Chinese culture,” the employee explained, “and the dragons represent that the Chinese people identify themselves as descendants of dragons. The teapot isn’t a religious statue, so the government won’t forcibly demolish it.”
The replacement of statues in Sichuan is yet another “achievement” in the CCP’s drive to curb the spread of religion in China by eliminating religious icons. Bitter Winter previously reported that, to save it from demolition, a Guanyin statue in the eastern province of Shandong had a head of Confucius installed on its body; while a Guanyin statue in Mount Jiuhua Scenic Area in the northeastern province of Liaoning was modified into a statue of Chang’e – the goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology.
Even religious statues in graveyards are not spared. In Longfeng cemetery in Hebei Province, a nearly 18-meter-tall bronze statue of sitting Maitreya – the “future Buddha” who is believed to appear on earth eventually – was demolished on February 26.
In May, a large statue of Buddha at a cemetery in Ulanqab city in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was forcibly dismantled. Built in 2013 at the cost of over 10 million RMB (about $ 1,400,000), the statue measured 22 meters in height. The person in charge of the cemetery believed that a Buddha statue in the graveyard could provide the families and friends of the deceased with a sense of tranquility and spiritual solace. But, the Chinese authorities don’t seem to care about that. They spent a considerable sum of money to dismantle the statue on the grounds that “religious statues are not allowed at non-religious venues.”
According to local sources, to save the statue from demolition, the director of the cemetery concealed it, but local officials said that the order to dismantle the statue came from a higher level of government, and if it wasn’t torn down, they would lose their jobs. They added that anyone who obstructed the demolition would be punished as “gang criminals and evil forces” – a popular disguise by the CCP to crack down on religious sites and people of faith.
In April, the local United Front Work Department ordered to tear down two large Buddhist statues in Shengquan cemetery, located in the Jin’an district of Fuzhou, the capital of the southeastern province of Fujian: a 21-meter-tall Dripping-Water Guanyin statue and a 15-meter-tall statue of Kṣitigarbha, a bodhisattva (a being on the path to enlightenment) often called upon to guide and protect deceased children.
Hoping to save the statues, the person in charge of the cemetery negotiated with the local government to allow him to hide them by constructing artificial mountains, made from reinforced concrete.
In late July, when Bitter Winter visited the cemetery, the “makeover project,” which, according to a cemetery employee, will cost more than one million RMB (about $ 140,000), was in full swing. An artificial mountain already concealed the Dripping-Water Guanyin, and the work on the Kṣitigarbha statue had just started.
The employee said that despite all efforts and money, it remains uncertain if the statues will be ultimately saved from demolition. “If the central government doesn’t approve it, they will still be torn down,” he added. “Saying that the cemetery isn’t a religious venue is purely an excuse. The Communist Party won’t let people believe in Buddhism or any other religions. Since Xi Jinping came to power, much harsher control has been imposed on religious affairs. He wants to eliminate all religious belief so that people only follow the Communist Party.”