Gilded Buddha statue in Beijing becomes latest victim of tourist vandalism

Buddha statue in Qianling Mountain Park has been defaced by tourists several times over the years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 1:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 3:43pm

A giant Buddha statue at a Beijing tourist attraction has fallen victim to vandalism, the latest in a series of acts exposed by Chinese media.

Staff at Qianling Mountain Park in southwest Beijing recently found palm-sized Chinese characters reading “Xu Donghui”, apparently a person’s name, carved on the right leg and stomach of the gilt Buddha statue.

The park’s staff told The Beijing News that tourists were responsible, and that had been frequent instances in which tourists tried to carve their names or other blessings on the statue using sharp tools since it had been built in 2006. The ongoing vandalism had already led to a restoration of the statue several years ago in which a gilt overlay was reapplied over the Buddha, according to the newspaper’s report.

“We have no authority to punish them, but only to stop them if [we] discover their wrongdoings,” a staff surnamed Yu said. “[We] may have to paste gilt layer again despite its considerable cost.”

Senior tourism researcher Liu Simin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the News that although the Buddha statue was not a relic, it was property of the park and the administrator had the right to coordinate with the authorities in seeking penalties for the abusers.

The abuse of the Buddha statue echo the news in May of a Chinese teenage tourist’s graffiti in Egypt, which was widely reported by media around the globe. The boy defaced a 3500-year-old Egyptian temple while trying to carve his own name on its wall.

Although the boy’s parents later apologised to the public on his behalf, the event has made Chinese tourists’ rude and embarrassing behaviour notorious around the world.

It even prompted China’s vice-premier Wang Yang to urge his countrymen to watch for their behaviour when travelling overseas.

Explaining this phenomenon, Liu said "General speaking tourists do not vandalise public properties deliberately. They simply want to have a sense of presence and to show off." 

Meanwhile, shoddy behaviour by mainland tourists last week has also reportedly contributed to a recent ongoing spat between Chinese mainland internet users and those from Taiwan. A Taiwan resident claimed over the weekend that a Henan tourist party visiting the Alishan National Scenic Area had been speaking loudly and spitting everywhere, sparking a heated online debate.