Buddhist statue with Confucius head to be redesigned: local government

By Xu Keyue Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/8 22:40:47

A Buddhist statue in Chengdongbu village, Pingdu, East China's Shandong Province is covered as it is under renovation and will become a statue of Confucius. Photo: Courtesy of an official of the Pingdu authority.

A Buddhist statue with the head of Confucius is being renovated and will become a statue of Confucius after completion, a municipal authority in East China's Shandong Province said, after the statue with Confucius' head and a Buddhist body sparked controversy.

The 21-meter Buddhist statue in Chengdongbu village, Pingdu, East China's Shandong Province, which was built eight years ago by the village committee, is undergoing renovation after it violated a newly revised religious regulation, an employee from the Pingdu government, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

According to the revised regulation on religious affairs, which took effect in February 2018, any religious organization should apply before building a religious statue in public. Any other organization and individual is forbidden from putting up such structures outside the religious sites.

The employee said that before reconstructing the statue the Chengdongbu village committee held meetings to inform the villagers and got their consent to transform it to a Confucius statue, because it is not a religious figure.

However, due to technical defects, the statue's head was changed to Confucius while its body remains Buddhist, said the anonymous employee, noting that they covered the statue on Saturday and will turn it to Confucius after hiring experts to re-design it.

His comments came after a picture of the facelifted statue generated controversy on Chinese social media.

Confucius (551-479 BC), a Chinese educator and philosopher, founded Confucianism, a school of thought that deeply influenced later generations. He was also the first Chinese to set up private schools and enroll students from all walks of life.

The Pingdu district management committee confirmed the reconstruction on Sina Weibo on Sunday. 

However, the reconstruction has been distorted by some foreign media as authorities' suppression of religions by cracking down or replacing religious statues. The reports were dismissed by Chinese religious experts.

"(The reconstruction has) nothing at all to do with the so-called religion crackdown," said an expert who requested anonymity. The revised regulations on religious affairs are meant to standardize religious activities in accordance with the law, she said.

Instead of revering any single religion, that ban on religious construction in  public places is meant to respect every religion and encourage them to develop in their own place and be worshipped by their believers, she said, noting that some Western countries also forbid religious statues in off-religious places as not to disturb the public.

She said that the spirit of the regulations is freedom of religion, which means various religions should develop respectively and equally.

Religious freedom does not mean zero management on religious issues by the government, Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, previously wrote in an article in the Qiushi Journal, a bi-monthly periodical published by the CPC Central Committee.

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