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Retribution for Those Who Disrespected the Divine During the Cultural Revolution

mao zedong
Pictured in the background is Mao Zedong, who formally launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Millions died as a result of the movement. (Image: Peggy_Marco via Pixabay /CC0 1.0 )

In ancient China almost everyone, from the emperor down to ordinary people, believed in Buddhas, gods, and Taos, and those who cultivated were highly respected.

There are many wise old sayings, such as:

‘I would rather move the water of three rivers than disturb a cultivator’s mind’

‘Mistreating monks or cursing Taos will lead to retribution.’

However, under the Chinese communist regime’s education system and promotion of atheism, many Chinese people nowadays regard cultivation practice as superstition, and no longer believe that “good brings good and evil leads to evil.”

Particularly during the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party in China instilled a spirit of rebellion within many of the younger generation, resulting in many committing heinous crimes.

Lots of these people have met with retribution, which is a sobering reminder to always do good deeds.

The story of the Statue of Maitreya Buddha in the Yonghe Temple

Maitreya Buddha statue in China

Statue of the Maitreya Buddha in the Yonghe Temple in Beijing. (Image: Kanzhongguo)

The main hall of the Yonghe Temple in Beijing holds a majestic statue of the Maitreya Buddha that stands 18 meters tall.

This Buddha statue was carved by a fine craftsman from a rare single giant tree trunk that was transported from Tibet by Emperor Qianlong during the Qing Dynasty. This beautiful statue represents the wealth of the city.

The craftsman designed a system of platforms and cables to ensure that the statue would be held upright in the temple. The system consists of a specially constructed two storey platform-style corridor along the sides and around the back of the statue, just wide enough for one person. The corridors and the statue are connected by iron cables to ensure stability.

The website history.bayvoice.net published a story about the reasons why the Yonghe Temple and the Buddha statue were not destroyed by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.

A Lama in his 70’s at the temple solemnly told the following true story to a visiting youngster.

Three Red Guards came to destroy the statue during the Cultural Revolution. The first climbed up into the two-storey corridor, and raised his axe to cut the cable. The axe head fell off, missing the cable, and cutting the guard’s leg.

When the second guard took over, and tried to cut the cable he also missed, fell off the platform, and was knocked unconscious. Seeing what had befallen his comrades, the third guard was too afraid to get on the platform.

Ever since this incident no one has dared to touch the statue of the Maitreya Buddha. This is the story of how Yonghe Temple and the statue survived the Cultural Revolution intact.

The story of Zhangba Buddha

Buddha statue

The Zhangba Buddha Statue in Guoli Temple at Binzhou City, Boxing County in Shandong Province. (Image: Kanzhongguo)

In Guoli Temple in Binzhou City, Boxing County in Shandong Province, there is a famous stone statue that is 5.4 meters tall. This statue is known as “Zhangba Buddha” or “Zhangba Buddha Stone Statue” by the locals.

Many people know that the current head of the Zhangba Buddha was reinstalled decades ago. This is the true story of what happened to the Buddha’s head.

Many temples and Buddha statues were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, including the Zhangba Buddha statue. A local Cultural Revolution team leader was determined to smash the statue to highlight his status as a “revolutionist,” and to gain credit for himself. He danced and jumped around so frantically that none of the locals dared to interfere.

He first ordered someone to shoot at the eyes of the Buddha statue. He next gathered a group of people and asked them to smash the statue, but they were unable to destroy it. Frustrated, he brought a tractor from nearby. He connected a rope to the tractor and tied it around the statue’s neck. After many attempts to destroy the statue, he finally succeeded in pulling off its head.

Shortly after this incident, the man who shot at the eyes of the statue was blinded by chips of flying stone while he was working. As for the team leader, his misfortune was even more terrible. He fell from a tractor that he was riding on, and was almost decapitated when one of the wheels ran over his neck. He was killed instantly.

A kowtowing man

cultural revolution, burning of books, buddha statues

Instigated by “The Campaign to Destroy the Four Olds,” people smashed temples, and destroyed Buddha statues during the early stages of the Culture Revolution. (Image: Kanzhongguo)

There is a small village in Ju County of Shandong Province that’s surrounded by tall mountains. The majority of the villagers are members of the Liu family.

This remote mountain village was not spared when the Cultural Revolution swept across the nation. Endless struggles and provocative slogans drove the inhabitants to a fanatical and irrational mental state.

When carrying out “The Campaign to Destroy the Four Olds (Elimination of the Four Stereotypes),” the population destroyed the village’s numerous antiquities, only preserving one small temple, and the ancestral tablets in their family shrines.

Deluded by the terrible atheist brainwashing propaganda, two ignorant and disrespectful young men stood up and declared: “If none of you have the guts, we’ll do it.”

The two young men smashed the temple, stomped on the ancestral tablets, and threw them into a brook. Exhausted from their efforts, one went home to rest, and the other sat with his legs crossed on a rock beside the brook.

The young man who returned to his home immediately began to suffer with a severe stomach ache, frantically rolling on the ground in pain. His mother, who was a devout Buddhist, realized that he became sick right after destroying the temple, and was afraid that he would die.

Showing no concern that she would be criticized by others, she walked on her knees all the way from her home to the temple, praying all the way to atone for her son’s misdeeds. He also enlightened to the fact that his illness may be a form of retribution. He immediately began to regret his ignorant actions, and became very reverent towards gods and Buddhas. His pain began to abate, and eventually disappeared.

However, the young man who was resting by the brook was not so lucky. When he tried to stand up after his rest, he fell down to the ground as his legs had become crooked, and he couldn’t straighten them out. His waist was also bent, so he had to walk bent over with his head close to the ground.

He had to hold a small stool in each hand when walking to maintain his balance, so he looked like he was rowing a boat. His crooked legs and stooped stance meant that he had to nod his head and push his hands out before him, almost as if he was kowtowing to Buddha. He remained like this for the rest of his life. 

All the people in the nearby villages knew that this was retribution for smashing the temple and disrespecting the ancestral tablets. He was dubbed the “kowtowing man,” and he walked in this strange way until he died in his 70’s, serving as a reminder to all sentient beings to always behave with respect and dignity. 

(Translated by Billy Shyu and Joshua Shih)

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