An important site of Manichaeism, an extinct ancient religion, has not escaped China’s religious persecution, as the CCP infiltrates it with its propaganda.
by Ye Ling
At the foot of the Huabiao Mountain in Quanzhou, a prefecture-level city in the southeastern province of Fujian, sits the Cao’an Temple, which is considered the only Manichean building that has survived intact. Manichaeism, an extinct dualistic religion that postulated an ongoing struggle between the forces of good and evil, was founded by the Prophet Mani (216-274) in Persia. The religion spread rapidly and flourished in the ancient world. In China, where it arrived in the 6th or 7th century, Manichaeism gradually assumed Buddhist and Taoist characteristics.
The Cao’an Temple was constructed originally by Chinese Manicheans in the 12th century and was later rebuilt in 1339. The same year was created the temple’s most remarkable icon—the stone statue of Prophet Mani, commonly referred to in China as Mani the Buddha of Light. Mani was represented as a reincarnation of Laozi, considered to be the founder of Taoism, who, many Chinese believed, had not died but gone to the West and reappeared as the historical Buddha.
The site attracts many visitors and countless foreign experts and scholars of world religions. Perhaps due to its peculiarity, the temple has been closely surveilled by the Chinese authorities and was banned from reopening to the public after the coronavirus lockdown had been lifted.
As other religious venues in Quanzhou were reopened in June, the entrance to the Cao’an Temple remained tightly locked, and police officers were stationed to surveil it. A local source explained that the government wants to keep the temple closed “to prevent foreign infiltration.” They fear that visitors and journalists from abroad would report on the state of human rights and religious liberties in China.
“I noticed police officers on motorcycles patrolling outside the temple three times within one and a half hours,” a hiker who passed by the Cao’an Temple in early July told Bitter Winter.
Before it was closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the temple had already fallen prey to the CCP’s policy to “sinicize” religions. According to a source, for the National Day on October 1 last year, the local government ordered to erect a pole for the national flag and post propaganda slogans promoting the core socialist values and traditional Chinese culture.
A local source familiar with the situation at the temple explained that most visitors to the temple come to learn about Manichaeism. “What they get now is the impression of Communism, which is permeating the temple,” the source said.
“The ‘sinicization’ policy aims to control and transform all religions,” the source continued. “Religious and cultural heritage sites must also obey the Communist Party, and they will all be ‘sinicized.’ The policy follows Marx and Lenin, who both advocated for the elimination of religion. Soon will be the end of all faiths in China.”