In late April a strange golden Buddha statue was erected in an amusement park in Luoyang, Henan province. With protruding belly, big smile and long ears, the statue in various ways resembled many other Buddha statues. Yet right at the top of the statue there was a fashion statement that is rarely seen in Buddhist imagery: a slick and smooth combed-back hairstyle. This utterly incongruous modern addition was just too much for many Internet commentators.
In the eye of the storm of public outrage, the Buddha was suddenly removed after a few days. But as the front page of the Zhengzhou Evening News (郑州晚报) from Henan province reports today, the slick Buddha is back! And it’s likely that the reason for this is that the statue was in fact made in the image of some entrepreneur (although which one we don’t know) who likes to see a massive golden statue of himself made in the image of a golden Buddha.
On 22 April, a picture of a new big, slick golden Buddha statue (dubbed the “Big Maitreya with the swept-back hairstyle” 大背头弥勒佛 by Chinese Internet users) was uploaded to Weibo. In what appears to have been another case of “erect first and ask questions later”, this particularly smooth Buddha was then in the process of being erected in Hualong Amusement Park (洛阳华龙欢乐园) in Luoyang, Henan province.
At first sight the Buddha appears quite comely, with amiable eyes, big lips, and long earlobes. But at the very top of the statue you are confronted with an incongruous slick, combed-back hairstyle. As the Zhengzhou Evening News reports today, Chinese web commentators have roundly disapproved of the slick hairstyle, it’s just too cool. Following much criticism online, after a few days the Buddha was gone. Yet it was not so much removed as decapitated, because only the head was taken off and everything from the shoulders down remained in the original position. But at least the offending hairstyle was no longer visible.
That all changed again this past weekend, when the Buddha’s head was suddenly found to have been installed on top of a small house (what some observers thought may be a bathroom). So the Zhengzhou Evening News today joins a chorus of online observers asking, what gives?!
The answer to this question is the fact that the Buddha was in fact made in the image of some entrepreneur. Hualong Park revealed as much in their telephone conversations with Zhengzhou Evening News, adding that this particular entrepreneur was dedicated (敬业) and hardworking (勤劳) yet sincere, down to earth (朴实) and tolerant (包容). And to thank him for all these merits, the statue of the golden Buddha was made in his image to “inspire young people”. That, they said, is all there’s to it (仅此而已).
Yet who is this entrepreneur? Despite repeated attempts for more information, the newspaper’s questions were turned away with a polite refusal to discuss “company secrets”.
Links and sources
Zhengzhou Wanbao (郑州晚报): 洛阳“大背头弥勒佛”：我又回来了