Too cheeky for Jinan: Naked Buddha sculptures taken down after causing social media stir

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 4:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 4:18pm

Massive sculptures of naked Buddhas clambering over a building at a busy shopping area in Jinan city were dismantled after triggering a debate in media and the internet on whether or not they constituted art or a public offence, reports said on Monday.

Some residents in the capital city of the eastern province of Shandong said the statues were taken away on the orders of local authorities. However, the Jinan Municipal Bureau of City Administration could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Buddha statues were erected on the wall of a hot pot restaurant in a busy shopping street. One of the statues is shown climbing the wall, with its bottom facing the street, while another was shown waiting on top of the wall, its hands clasped like in a prayer. It was unknown who the sculptures’ designers are and why they made them.

A Sina Weibo user posted a photo of the Buddhas last Sunday, and they immediately went viral. High-resolution photos taken by state-run China News were also widely circulated. China Radio International and Beijing Youth Daily reposted the snaps, calling the sculptures art.

A photo from showing the two sculptures erected over a hot pot restaurant. Photo: SCMP Pictures

However, some Zen Buddhist practitioners said they were offended. “I burst into tears when I saw naked Buddhas climbing over the wall! How come a nation with a thousand-year history has so little respect for its own culture?” a practitioner named Miaoming from the Beihai Zen Monastery in Qinghai province wrote on his microblog.

Others simply saw humour in the photos. Over the weekend, netizens nicknamed the installation “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall”, the name of a luxury dish which contains nearly all the expensive ingredients in Chinese cooking: abalone, sea cucumber, dried scallops and fish maw among them.

But by Monday morning, the sculptures were gone.

“The orders [of dismantlement] were sent last night,” a microblog group for Jinan residents said on Monday morning. “But thanks to the sculptures, our conservative Jinan city finally made headlines!”