While Buddhist and Taoist temples are being destroyed and closed down every day, places of worship dedicated to China’s Communist Party leaders are thriving.
by Li Guang
On a warm July morning, a woman comes into the Zhongyuan Yidianhong Temple (中原一點紅, literally translated as “One Red Dot in the Central Plains”). She bows three times to the portraits of President Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong, hanging on a wall that faces a table with sacrificial offerings and an incense burner, salutes the leaders thrice, and proceeds to kneel three times in a row. The woman then finishes her worship ceremony by kowtowing multiple times.
A woman is worshiping Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong in Zhongyuan Yidianhong Temple.
The temple, located in the county-level city of Ruzhou, administered by Pingdingshan city in China’s central province of Henan, is one of many fast-emerging places of worship across China that is dedicated to exalting China’s leaders, past and present.
Later in the day, a group of about 80 came to the temple to worship. The worshipers burned incense, bowed and kowtowed to the white marble statue of Chairman Mao.
People are burning incenses and worshipping Mao Zedong.
The group also participated in a ceremony of raising two flags, one of them inscribed with Chinese characters for “heavenly order,” to the sound of the national anthem. Firecrackers, the playing of gongs and drums followed.
The flag-raising ceremony was performed to the sounds of the national anthem.
According to a local source, the temple owner spent at least 100,000 RMB (about $ 15,000) on images and statues of China’s leaders and other decorations since construction of the temple began in 2017. The owner plans to expand the premises to accommodate more worshipers. On the day of the Mao Zedong statue’s unveiling ceremony, more than 1,000 people came to pay their respect.
“The owner is smart. Otherwise, his temple could have been demolished, like many others in China,” a resident commented. “Because the temple is devoted to Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping, it is spared. Local officials won’t dare to destroy a place of worship dedicated to the country’s leaders; they could be labeled criminals and punished if they did.”
“Would Xi Jinping really feel happy knowing that people are burning incense to worship him?” another resident asked.
“Of course, he will,” a woman who just emerged from the temple intervened. “Portraits of Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong are everywhere in China, even in the homes of people. All temples have to put up their portraits, according to the government regulations.”
A statue of Mao Zedong in the Buddhist Sanhuanggu Temple (三皇姑寺廟) in Pingdingshan’s Jia county was enshrined six years ago, a flagpole with the national flag erected next to it.
“Without the national flag and the statue of Mao Zedong, the temple could be designated as illegal. Now it’s up to standard!” a local Buddhist said sarcastically. An elderly Buddhist accompanying him added that during the Mao Zedong era, all religions were ordered to be eradicated, and citizens had to praise him as “the great savior of the people,” memorize Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. “In the same way, Xi Jinping is striving to annihilate religion. Both of them have been telling people there was no God while demanding to be worshiped as idols,” the Buddhist said.
Over in Henan’s Xuchang city, a shop owner had an image of Buddha displayed on the store’s external wall as a symbol of his faith. In late September, local government officials ordered him to replace it with a Xi Jinping portrait, claiming that “portraits of Buddha are a blight on the city.”
Throughout his years in power, Xi Jinping has been gradually cultivating his personality cult, which has now reached unparalleled heights. In 2018, he removed the two-term limit on the presidency, which allows him to rule the country for life. The “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” has been written into the national constitution, and people across the country are forced to study it.
The president deification also extends to all religious denominations and ethnic groups in mainland China. Over the past few years, multiple churches across the country have been ordered to remove religious images and symbols and replace them with portraits of Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong or the president’s quotes. Christians at home are requested to do the same, while impoverished households are even threatened to have their government-issued poverty alleviation subsidies taken away if they disobey the orders.
Since the beginning of 2019, Tibetans who depend on government subsidies or are part of the national poverty alleviation program are being ordered to replace the images of holy Lamas in their homes with shrines to President Xi and other Communist Party leaders or lose the state aid.
By eradicating religious beliefs and all ideological thought that contradicts “Xi Thought,” China’s regime is making sure that all its citizens live in a spiritual void, where President Xi is the only deity allowed to be worshipped.