The CCP’s nationwide campaign to eradicate statues of Buddhist deities is uncontrollably spreading across China, even sacred places are not spared.
by Zhang Feng
Perhaps fearing that these towering open-air deities will challenge the CCP’s totalitarian rule, authorities all over China are intensifying crackdowns on Buddhist statues: either using explosives to demolish them or concealing them from the eyes of the public.
Liaoning: Statues “facelifted” or hidden to save them from demolition
The government of Tieling county, under the jurisdiction of Tieling city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, warned some local cemeteries that national regulations prohibit outdoor Buddhist statues. In May, the county’s Dahebei Ecological Garden Cemetery was forced to give a Guanyin statue a “facelift” in order to protect it from being dismantled.
The “Four-Faced Guanyin” statue inside the cemetery measures about 20 meters in height. In a renovation project that lasted more than three months, the statue’s head was re-decorated in the shape of a lotus flower. Now, the icon doesn’t even look like Guanyin – the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy – anymore.
“To put it bluntly, it doesn’t look like anything. It looks awkward to us, but there’s nothing we can do. If we didn’t alter it, the entire Bodhisattva statue would be demolished,” said a cemetery employee.
An over-10-meter-tall statue of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, located inside the county’s Junlongquan Cemetery, was covered twice. The first time, it was concealed with galvanized iron sheets, The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars written on them. But local officials decided that it wasn’t enough, and the person in charge of the cemetery was forced to surround the Buddhist statue with marble slabs.
“The Buddhist statue looked so beautiful! Now that it has been altered, it looks like a stone tablet. I can’t find the right words to describe it!” a villager said angrily.
Shanxi: Guanyin statues destroyed
The Cangshan Scenic Area, located in Yangquan city in the northern province of Shanxi, is a national 4A-level tourist attraction. A 16-meter-tall Guanyin statue used to stand inside the area’s Lotus Temple, but on June 20, the local government dismantled it using a large crane. According to a staff member at the scenic area, during the dismantling process, the government told the public that they were carrying out renovations and arranged for the police to guard the road leading to the temple, prohibiting people from passing through.
“The government claimed that tourist areas aren’t the places for worshipping Buddha, no Bodhisattva statues are allowed there,” the staff member said.
He also revealed that a month before the statue was dismantled, the government sealed off the temple’s “Sutra Pavilion” and “Hall of Reclining Buddha.”
Some local officials disapprove of Buddhist statues being forcibly demolished, but under pressure from their superiors, they have no choice but to obey. “Xi Jinping is in power now. If he says to crack down on Buddhism, who would dare to disagree with him? When central government officials make an unannounced visit, if they discover that a village has a temple and has set up a donation box, local officials in charge will be dismissed on the spot,” a local government official revealed.
In May, the United Front Work Department of Lingqiu county under the jurisdiction of Datong city issued a “rectification” list, calling to clamp down on outdoor statues. In June, a 15-meter-tall Bodhisattva statue in the local Xuanlong Temple was forcibly dismantled. According to witnesses, during the demolition, the temple’s octogenarian abbot stepped forward several times, trying to block the dismantling work, but government personnel carried him away.
A source informed Bitter Winter that although the temple’s abbot responded proactively to the government’s “four requirements” policy, and promised that believers would obey and follow the Party, the temple was unable to escape the crackdown.
Shandong: 400,000 RMB spent to dismantle a 30-meter-tall statue
In February, a 30-meter-tall “Thousand-Hand Guanyin” statue in the Dengshan Scenic Area – a national 3A-level scenic spot in Lanshan district of Rizhao city in the eastern province of Shandong – was forcibly demolished.
According to an anonymous source, the project to dismantle the “Thousand-Hand Guanyin” statue lasted two months and cost approximately 400,000 RMB (about $ 60,000). For the duration of the dismantling process, the government told the public that the scenic spot was “closed for renovations.”
During the same period, a “Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva” statue at the Mount Tiantai Scenic Area in Donggang district of Rizhao city was also dismantled.