The CCP continues its campaign to dismantle all open-air Buddhist icons. Even pieces of art with religious connotations are not spared.
by Yang Xiangwen
The CCP is demolishing every Buddhist statue in sight – whether in scenic areas, temples, or cemeteries – under a variety of pretexts. For scenic areas and cemeteries, officials often claim that the presence of deities is not allowed in non-religious venues; in cases of temples, statues are deemed too tall, or there are too many of them.
58 cliff-carved Buddhist sculptures demolished
The cliff-carved composition, known as the “World’s Light of Buddhism,” in the Sengguan Peak Scenic Area in Chengde city in the northern province of Hebei, was about 300 meters in length and was composed of 58 sculptures; the tallest was 33 meters in height.
According to the description in the scenic area, the “Light of Buddhism” was planned by Hou Yimin, a well-known artist and the former director of China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts. A few sets of statues, featuring styles of several countries, including China, India, and Pakistan, represent the establishment of Buddhism, the route of its propagation, and its historical development.
In late May, however, the government demolished this large-scale piece of religious art on the grounds that it was “illegally constructed.”
According to sources, a provincial-level supervisory group was assigned to ensure that the local government demolished the sculptures, threatening to remove from office anyone who disobeyed the order. The day before the demolition, to prevent news from leaking that would lead to protests, all of the scenic area’s staff were notified to take a few days off. The demolition operation began at 3 a.m. on May 31. The workers who took part in the process were ordered not to bring cellphones and were prohibited from taking any photos or videos. Even the people who delivered meals to the personnel were not allowed to have phones on them.
Large excavators were brought in, and after just three days, all of the cliff-carved sculptures were destroyed. The rubble was loaded into large vehicles and transported out of the scenic area. All that remains now is a barren precipice and marks left behind from the demolition.
The number of visitors coming to the scenic area has significantly decreased since the demolition. Buddhists feel both angry and helpless. “The government doesn’t let us have any religious beliefs. They don’t always say so explicitly, but in reality, they want us to believe in the Communist Party only. We’re not allowed to believe in anything else,” a local Buddhist said.
800 Arhat statues forced to be removed
In February 2009, the Zhangzhou city government designated Lingjiu Temple, located in Yunxiao county, under the jurisdiction of Zhangzhou city, in the southeastern province of Fujian, as one of the city’s “key temples for exchanges with Taiwan.” Even so, the temple still was suppressed by the government.
According to sources, in mid-May, the county’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau ordered the person in charge of the temple to remove 300 Arhat statues on the Pilgrimage Avenue leading to it. If not, they threatened to shut down the temple. In July, all the statues were taken away.
During the same period, the government ordered the removal of 500 Arhat statues from Shanyuan Temple in Fushun city in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
Three-Faced Guanyin statue dismantled
Also in May, a Three-Faced Guanyin statue in a park in Hotan city in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was dismantled. Yuantong Hall, located at the base of the Guanyin statue, was also forcibly demolished.
“Although Yuantong Hall was state-approved, it was still demolished,” a government insider told Bitter Winter. “The Constitution provides for the freedom of religion, but as long as there is a political need, the Constitution and government approvals can all be tossed aside.”