Don’t expect to see statues of deities in some temples of eastern provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang: CCP directed to cover them up “to block the spread of religion.”
by Ye Ling
Zhejiang Province: Abbot mobilizes believers to save 500 statues
In 2007, Zhenlong Temple, located in Xiangshan county, under the jurisdiction of Ningbo city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, spent 1.6 million RMB (about $ 240,000), mostly donated by local Buddhists, to create and install 500 statues of Arhats, disciples of Buddha, on the mountain behind the temple. In August last year, the local government ordered the temple’s abbot to tear them down, proclaiming that “it is prohibited to build religious statues outside religious venues.”
Since the statues are embedded in a cliff, making the dismantling very difficult, the authorities directed the abbot to cover them up temporarily, threatening to demolish the temple if he disobeyed. The temple, therefore, hired professionals for the job.
The statues remained covered until late May when government personnel once again ordered the abbot to dismantle all the icons. In an attempt to preserve them, the abbot asked local Buddhists to help him dismantle the Arhats carefully and take them away.
A 21-meter-tall dripping-water Guanyin statue at Mingshan Temple was not so lucky. Located in Taishun county, under the jurisdiction of Wenzhou city, the deity was forcibly demolished on September 21. The reason given by the local government was that the statue was too tall and would obstruct the view for pilots – one of the trumped-up ridiculous pretexts that the CCP uses in cracking down on outdoor religious statues.
According to a villager, officials ordered demolition workers to cut the statue into small fragments to prevent local Buddhists from re-erecting it. Because of the large size of the Guanyin, many workers have been injured by falling debris while tearing it down.
Built at the cost of nearly 5 million RMB (about $ 750,000), the statue was often visited by the local Buddhists who were distraught after its demolition. “The Communist Party wants people to believe only in it and won’t allow worshiping Buddha,” lamented believers at the site.
Fujian: Hide the statues or see them demolished
In the neighboring Fujian Province, Dongming Buddhist Temple (東明禪寺) on Dongmen Island in Dongshan county, under the jurisdiction of Zhangzhou city, is a nationally-reputed scenic spot and historical site that attracts many worshipers and tourists.
Surrounding the temple are five hundred Arhat statues that have been covered with black nets since spring. According to a local monk, the local Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau summoned the temple’s abbot in April and demanded him to remove the statues, claiming that the number of outdoor religious statues must not exceed ten in one location. The abbot did as ordered. He also planted some vegetation and didn’t remove the growing weeds around them intentionally to conceal the Arhat statues.
A local Buddhist said helplessly that many people visit this tourist site, and it makes them uncomfortable seeing the covered statues with overgrown plants. But they had to do this to save the statues, the Buddhist explained adding: “Cultural and historical sites were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and the CCP is doing the same thing now.”
Arhat statues outside Wanfu Temple in Putian city suffered a similar fate. In mid-April, officials from the provincial Religious Affairs Bureau and United Front Work Department ordered the person in charge of the temple to remove all 500 Arhat statues on the mountain behind the temple and store them in one place. They threatened him to destroy the statues otherwise. The person in charge rented two cranes and spent six days removing the statues at the cost of nearly 20,000 RMB (about $3,000). Less than a month later, the temple was ordered to conceal the icons with iron sheets; the directive has cost additional 120,000 RMB (about $ 18,000).
During the same period, statues of 18 Arhats at a temple in Quanzhou city were ordered to be enclosed by a wall, which local officials later “beautified” with posters, promulgating the core socialist values and other state propaganda on the wall. The demand was accompanied by threats to demolish the statues if the temple refused to comply.