The CCP intensifies crackdowns against Buddhists and Taoist outdoor statues by removing or modifying them. Even the smallest religious symbols must go.
by Wang Anyang
Liaoning: No more virtue and mercy
Mount Jiuhua Scenic Area, located in Linghai city of the northeastern province of Liaoning, is a national 4A-level scenic area, where two Buddhist deities underwent a drastic transformation in the first half of the year.
The statue of bodhisattva Samantabhadra or Universal Virtue was modified beyond recognition: The body of the deity was removed and replaced with a composition that symbolizes the harvest of crops.
The statue of Guanyin – the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy – was modified to look like Chang’e – the Goddess of the Moon in the Chinese mythology – by changing her hairdo: adding a bun and braids. The original Buddhist inscription on the base of the statue has been replaced with “Chang’e flies to the Moon.”
Reportedly, the statue has been modified to prevent its demolition. A pavilion has been built to house the statue, and now people come to worship the mythological Chinese goddess in a Buddhist-style pavilion.
Shaanxi: Even the smallest statues have to disappear
The height of religious statues is often the reason given by the government for tearing them down. In the case of Chanlong Temple in Baoji city of the northwestern province of Shaanxi, this reasoning doesn’t apply. The “Three-Faced Buddha” statue atop Haihui Pagoda inside the temple is barely discernable from a distance. Even so, the authorities decided to dismantle the statues in June, leaving only the lightning rod on the roof.
Similarly, small gilt statues on a seven-floor Buddhist pagoda inside Lingying Temple in Zhaocun town under the jurisdiction of Xingping city were removed. Twenty-four gilt deities – four on each floor, from the first to the seventh – were removed in late June by government-hired workers. Three small statues above the Temple’s entrance were covered with a cloth.
A resident in the area revealed that provincial authorities issued notices to all subordinate levels of government, demanding to dismantle all outdoor Buddhist statues, threatening to dismiss any official who didn’t comply. The warning forced local bureaucrats to be extra meticulous in removing the statues of Buddhist deities.
Jilin: Taoist deity deemed too tall
At a Taoist temple in Changchun city of the northeastern province of Jilin, a 14-meter-tall statue of the Highest Elder Lord (太上老君, Taishang Laojun, also known as the Grand Supreme Elderly Lord) was dismantled last year because the authorities deemed it too tall.
“Before the statue of the Highest Elder was demolished, its head and arms were chopped off. It’s like the Cultural Revolution has returned,” said a local Taoist. “Xi Jinping, like Mao Zedong, won’t let people have any faith and forces them to believe in him only. He is an atheist, and in my view, the stronger a person’s atheism is, the more evil the person becomes.”
Over in Yongji county in Jilin city, Guanyin statues were removed from Guanyin Temple and Beihua Temple in June this year.