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Construction of Christian Theme Park Draws Wide Criticism on Chinese Social Media

The construction of a 150,000-square-meter Christian theme park in the capital of Hunan has sparked controversy on Chinese social media. Many netizens think a religious park does not belong in the home province of Mao Zedong – especially not when funded by the local government.

Manya Koetse

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The construction of a 150,000-square-meter Christian theme park in the capital of Hunan has sparked controversy on Chinese social media. Many netizens think a religious park does not belong in the home province of Mao Zedong – especially not when funded by the local government.

A so-called “Christian Theme Park” (教会主题公园) in Changsha has sparked controversy on Chinese social media. The park, located in the Changsha Xingsha Ecological Park, is called “the biggest Christian theme park in southern China” (中南地区最大的教会主题公园), but is likely the only one of its sort in the entire nation. It opened its doors during the Spring Festival.

According to the China Christian Daily, the park covers an area of approximately 150,000 square meters (15 hectares) and one of its highlights is the 80-meter high Xingsha Church. The park is also home to the Hunan Bible Institute.

On social media, from WeChat to Weibo, the opening of the park has triggered controversy. Changsha is the capital city of Mao Zedong’s home province Hunan, and the park is allegedly sponsored by the local government.

 

“Religion has grown too fast in recent years in China, which has led to friction and conflict.”

 

Chinese state tabloid Global Times criticized the project in a post on February 6, writing:

“No matter what you say, this Changsha park has triggered controversy that should be taken seriously by all authorities. Besides protecting historical religious buildings, we should be very cautious about new religiously themed buildings at tourist spots. Ask around if it is a good idea or not, look up the legislation and policies – don’t just rely on your own will and the local profits. It might lead to serious disputes.”

The Global Times also published an “opinion piece” by commentator Shan Renping (单仁平), who writes that “religious activities should take place at religious sites, and should not be extended to social settings,” and that “Christian activities should take place within the church, and not in public places.”

Shan Renping adds: “Overall, religion has grown too fast in recent years in China, which has led to friction and conflict. Local governments should no longer use public resources for the propaganda and promotion of a religion. Religion should neither be suppressed nor promoted, but should be dealt with in accordance with the law.”

 

“What on earth gave the Changsha government the right to use the taxpayers’ money for a Christian project?”

 

Although Christianity is one of China’s five state-approved religions, many netizens think the Christian theme park should be demolished. A Hunan TV report showed the park’s purpose as a tourist attraction and wedding photos location, but many netizens stress that China is a secular society and that the park’s construction in Changsha is not in line with the revolutionary history of the city.

In a popular WeChat article (link in Chinese) by an account called “Behind the Headlines”, the author also expresses his dismay at the fact that this Christian park, of all places, should be opened in the hometown of Mao, who was a convinced atheist.

Despite all the criticism, not all netizens think the park is a bad idea. “This is freedom of religion. If you don’t like it, don’t go there,” one netizen said.

One commenter complained that the widespread criticism was unfair, saying: “When there are mosques built, nobody dares to say anything, but when other religions make something, you open your mouths. It’s not right.”

There are also those who do not necessarily care about the religion, but do care about the money: “What on earth gave the Changsha government the right to use the taxpayers’ money for a Christian project? Should it not be a public park instead of a religious place?”

– By Manya Koetse
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Featured image: part of a slogan on a wall saying “love daughters.”.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Arts & Entertainment

“Hideous” and “Scary”: Giant Chongqing Rabbit Lantern Gets Roasted by Residents

More rabbits are getting roasted this year. This giant Chongqing rabbit was removed after sparking criticism for being ugly.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this month, the design of the latest zodiac stamp by China Post when viral after the little blue rabbit with red eyes and human hands triggered controversy for being “monster-like.” Now, another rabbit is criticized for its questionable design. This time, it concerns a giant rabbit lantern in Chongqing.

The giant rabbit lantern appeared at Sanxia Square in Chongqing’s Shapingpa District. As the Year of the Rabbit is about to start, huge rabbit decorations have popped up all over China.

But this particular Chongqing rabbit was received with disapproval from residents who said it looked uncanny and so ugly it almost made them cry. “Giant Chongqing rabbit lantern gets roasted for being scary,” Beijing Headlines wrote (#重庆巨型兔子灯被吐槽吓人#).

The rabbit is different from a more standard and cute cartoon rabbit, as it has human-like eyes and eyebrows and a serious expression on its face. Its body has festive orange, green, and yellow colors.

Although its design was not received well by many, others also said they liked the more traditional paper cutting-style of the rabbit.

“I don’t think it’s ugly,” one person commented: “But it’s certainly not pretty.”

Nevertheless, it was apparently decided that the bunny needed to go, and workers came to Sanxia Square to get rid of the rabbit lantern (hashtag #被吐槽吓人巨型兔子灯已被拆除#).

The district management committee told Chinese reporters on January 18 that they gave orders to dismantle the lanterns after receiving reports from residents that the giant rabbit was “appalling” (#官方回应巨型兔子灯被吐槽吓人#).

In the case of the blue rabbit stamp, a mascot that was specially designed to celebrate the launch of the zodiac stamp and the Year of the Rabbit was also discarded after people said they found the red-eyed rabbit “rat-like” and “horrible.”

Earlier this week, an art sculpture created by artist Xu Hongfei (许鸿飞) which is displayed inside Guangzhou Airport, also became a topic of discussion on Chinese social media as many could not appreciate the work of art and its representation of women. Airport management is reportedly now “investigating” how to deal with the controversy and the sculpture itself (#机场回应大厅雕塑被指有损女性形象#).

The Shanghai Morning Post (新闻晨报) wrote a post about the rabbit incident on Weibo, in which the newspaper – that falls under the Shanghai party newspaper Jiefang Daily – implicitly criticized the way in which both the blue rabbit stamp and the colorful Chongqing rabbit have recently come under fire and how the situations were handled.

“Give creativity some room!”, the news outlet wrote, arguing that rabbits aren’t always only “cute,” and that works that are more innovative, unique, and creative inevitably will cause some controversy because they make more impact and people have different views on what is considered beautiful and what is considered ugly.

Simply getting rid of artworks or public installations because many people don’t like them is unconstructive and a waste of public resources, according to the post. It would be better to actively engage in conversations, in the earlier phases of a project, but also once a work of art is already completed and if it is met with some controversy, the post argues; let people think about it, explore it, reflect on it – but do not just cover it up, tear it down, and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Although some Weibo commenters applauded how Chongqing authorities listened to the people, others did not agree with the rabbit being removed because people thought it was ugly: “What are you taking it down for? If it’s ugly, just let it be ugly, at least it’s unforgettable!”

In light of the discussion, other social media users, including Zhihu user ‘Hǎiniú móumóu’ (海牛眸眸) and Weibo blogger Kai Lei (凯雷), took the initiative to make a collection of other rabbits on display in Chinese cities for the Year of the Rabbit. Some of them made the Chongqing rabbit look perfectly normal.

Such as the cyberpunk rabbit on display in Zigong.

Or the peaceful bunny from Quanzhou.

The big-eyed Nanjing one.

The Shanghai angry, boxing bunny.

But the one in Nanning takes the crown, as it left people utterly confused (#南宁兔子灯被嘲羊不羊兔不兔#).

“I guess you can’t please everyone,” one Weibo user wrote: “But you can displease everyone.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Zilan Qian

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China Local News

Driver Speeds through Busy Intersection in Guangzhou

The driver, a 22-year-old man, killed 5 people and injured 13 when he drove into people who were just crossing the road in Guangzhou.

Manya Koetse

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Update: Several of the hashtags linked within this article were taken offline after the time of publication.

Five people were killed and 13 others were injured in a traffic incident involving a BMW driving into pedestrians at Tianhe Road in Guangzhou on January 11. The shocking incident went trending on Weibo, where one hashtag related to the topic received over 1.2 billion views before midnight Beijing time (#广州一宝马冲撞人群已致5死13伤#).

The incident happened around 17:25 local time on Wednesday. Videos circulating on Douyin and Weibo show how the black SUV just ploughed his car through the busy street at Tianhe Road/Tiyu East Road, where dozens of people were walking and crossing the intersection. Shortly after the incident, some people could be seen lying motionless on the road.

Another video shows how the car, apart from the intersection incident, also drove into a woman at another intersection and into a person riding on an electric scooter. Later on, the driver could be seen crashing into traffic fences, throwing money out of his car window while driving. The driver then got out of his car and started throwing money bills around. Shortly after, he was arrested.

According to Chinese media, the driver is a 22-year-old male from Jieyang in Guangdong, identified as ‘Wen X.’ The incident is still under investigation.

Just moments before the SUV drove into the people crossing the intersection.

“This is the first time in my life I’ve ever been ashamed to say I come from Jieyang,” one commenter wrote. “I saw the videos and I’m crying, I’m so shocked,” another person wrote: “He must be severely punished.”

Other people called the culprit ‘inhumane’ and ‘devilish,’ saying he does not deserve to live.

Earlier this week, another major road incident that happened near Youlan Town in Nanchang, Jiangxi, killed 19 people and injured 21 others. The incident occurred on the very early morning (0:49) of 8 January, when a truck drove into a funeral procession.

At the time of the incident, a thick fog allegedly reduced visibility, but the incident is still under investigation. According to witnesses, it took the driver of the vehicle several hundred meters to stop after driving into the crowd. Most of the people who were killed in the incident were locals who had attended the funeral.

On Chinese social media, that topic also received a lot of attention this week. Some of the hashtags used to discuss the incident, however, were taken offline.

People wondered why a funeral procession would take place so late at night. Although some commenters suggested it could be due to local customers, others claimed it was related to the long waiting times for funerals at a time of a major Covid outbreak and related deaths.

“It’s too bitter. It’s a tragedy upon a tragedy,” one person commented.

By Manya Koetse

 

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