As China’s communist government continues to invade and close down temples, Taoists are banned from wearing traditional clothes and hairstyles.
by Li Mingxuan
The Sanguan Temple in Taozhuang town’s Jingting village, administered by the Xuecheng district of Zaozhuang city in the eastern province of Shandong, was built in the late Qing dynasty (1636–1912). In October last year, the government converted it into a cultural center. The temple’s statues were covered with wooden boards to prevent people from worshipping them.
“Xi Jinping follows the path of Mao Zedong, prohibiting people from believing in God,” a Taozhuang town resident said helplessly. “Like during the Cultural Revolution, temples are demolished across China, and people have no choice but to obey the Communist Party.”
The Jade Emperor Temple in the same town was also converted into a cultural center. A slogan, “Confidence in our political system, confidence in our culture, confidence in our chosen path, and confidence in our guiding theory,” was displayed at the temple entrance. President Xi Jinping’s Confidence Doctrine was added to the CCP constitution in 2017 to boost people’s determination to follow the Party.
“No one dares to speak against this, fearing to be arrested or that the temple would be demolished,” another town believer said.
The town’s Sanguan Temple was converted into an entertainment venue after the plaques with donors’ names and incense burner had been removed, and statues of deities were concealed behind a board wall. Instead, chairs and musical instruments were brought in. Couplets promoting the “Four Confidences” have been posted at the temple entrance.
In October, the temple’s masters were forced to attend training at the local Religious Affairs Bureau on the relationship between religion and the core socialist values and the Confidence Doctrine.
“The government rectifies temples and demands their leaders to conform to the Communist Party ideology,” a local believer commented. “Those who disagree will have their temples demolished.”
In November last year, the Juxian Palace Temple in Qicun, a town in the Shizhong district of Shandong’s Zaozhuang city, was taken over by the local government to be converted into a tourist center. The temple’s signboard and statues were destroyed.
The Baifu Temple, located at the foot of the Tieqi Mountain in the Chengyang district of Shandong’s Qingdao city, spanning a history of about 900 years, was listed as a historical and cultural site protected at the provincial level. In September last year, the district’s Religious Affairs Bureau designated the temple a “non-religious activity venue” and demanded its manager to remove all religious statues, incense burners, and other religious items and shut down the temple. On October 2 this year, the local government issued an order to permanently close the Baifu Temple because of “fire prevention concerns.”
In early November last year, the government of Qingzhou, a county-level city in Shandong’s prefecture-level city of Weifang, closed the Taoist temple in the Jiazi Cultural Park because it did not have the religious activity registration certificate and assigned personnel to patrol it. Taoist masters, who were allowed to remain in the temple, for the time being, were banned from wearing traditional robes and tying their hair into a bun—an ancient Taoist custom.
“We can only wear our hair short now,” one of the Taoists said. “Judging from the situation, we’ll soon have to return to our homes. The government wants us to go away, but we can’t leave the statues of deities unattended.”
In December last year, officials from the United Front Work Department in Jiujiang, a prefecture-level city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, proclaimed that the Tianhua Palace Temple was unlicensed and ordered a nun residing there to stop wearing traditional Taoist clothes and hairstyle. She had to comply for fear of being removed from the temple. “The government always finds faults with us to control our belief. We have no freedom whatsoever,” the nun said.