WANG ANYANG | BITTER WINTER
The sculptures of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy were removed as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to eliminate all large open-air religious symbols.
In the middle of the Mysterious Oriental Bodhi World Theme Park, in the Jinshitan Tourist Resort in Dalian, a seaport city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, used to stand an elaborate four-faced, thousand-hand Guanyin statue. Its main body was composed of three parts: the “Great Brightness Buddha Holding Alms Bowl” at the top, the “Four Tathagatas” in the middle, and the “Thousand-Hand Guanyin Bodhisattva” itself right above the base.
Built at the cost of approximately 80 million RMB (about $ 11,200,000) over two years, the 119-meter-tall sculpture – 69 meters of the body and 50 meters of the base – was considered one of the world’s most beautiful and most difficult-to-build Guanyin Bodhisattva statues.
According to local believers, a halo, known as “Buddha’s light,” has appeared over the Guanyin statue more than 200 times since it was built, so locals called it “the Buddha that responds to every prayer.” However, the government ordered the park’s management company to dismantle this particular and other Buddhist statues because “they were unapproved.”
In late April, an array of scaffolding was set up around the thousand-hand Guanyin in preparation for its removal. The demolition work was still ongoing when Bitter Winter visited the site in autumn.
On July 31, a 32-meter-tall bronze four-faced Guanyin statue in Pumen Temple, located in Changchun city in the northeastern province of Jilin, was demolished on the grounds that it was “too tall.” The statue was built at the cost of over 10 million RMB (about $ 1,412,000).
The statue depicted four Guanyins: the “Wheel of Dharma Guanyin,” the “Pure Jar Guanyin,” the “Child-Sending Guanyin,” and the “Lotus Guanyin.” Built with extraordinarily complex craftsmanship, it had high artistic value.
A source who asked to remain anonymous told Bitter Winter that in order to protect the Guanyin statue, the temple’s believers jointly wrote a petition letter, asking for an explanation from the government, but were rebuffed by officials who told them “not to talk about Buddhist karma because it was useless.”
“The CCP is outpacing the Cultural Revolution – demolishing Buddhist statues, destroying Scripture, and forcing Buddhists monks and nuns to return to secular life. Where is our religious freedom?” a local believer asked angrily. “They are afraid that everyone will believe in Buddhism, and no one will believe in the Party.”
This spring, authorities ordered to demolish the temple’s nine windchime pagodas because “they embodied Tibetan style.” According to the believer, the government prohibits anything with Tibetan characteristics.