Tag: Religion

解放军庙 Deifying the Communist soldiers

位于惠安县崇武镇的这座庙供奉了1949年战死的27名解放军烈士,被人称为“天下第一奇庙”,引来无数观瞻者烧香、磕头、求签。民间可以称“奇”,但学者该去探究这一信仰得以生发的文化与社会环境。

古代的武将死后“显灵”,从而被神格化,为后人祭祀,是常有之事。军庙之“奇”是因为所供奉的主角是宣称无神论政党领导的军人,且年代并不久远。事实上,对中共早期领导人的神圣化与祭祀的例子不胜枚举,把毛、朱等人当神祭拜的事很常见。

崇武曾是海防重地,至今保留抗倭古城,海防将领被祭祀颇为平常。祭祀内战时死去的解放军士兵也遵循了这一逻辑。有一例,一次台风时海水涌上提岸,在淹没到解放军塑像脚下时立马消退,这被当地人解读为解放军的“显灵”。27名军人因此被认为具备了化解海难的能力。

早前的军庙在文革中被拆毁,现在的庙先后重修于上世纪九十年代和2009年前后。地方政府的态度是比较模糊的,在迷信话语的笼罩下颇为谨慎。相反,军队很是主动。被供奉的烈士是叶飞将军的部下,后者是闽籍的中共高级将领,曾领导对金门的战役。自叶飞以下,曾有几十名高级将领来参观并题词,其中包括邵华。军庙的墙上挂着满满的牌匾,都是将军们的题词和捐款记录。在上百块牌匾中只有一块是惠安政府授予的“爱国主义教育基地”。在当代中国宗教复兴的研究中,学者们都看到了国家的在场,无论是作为一种威慑力量,还是可提供合法性的权威来源。这座军庙则是强大的军队在场。考虑到地方政府和军队之间的微妙关系,也就不难理解这座军庙兴盛至今,每逢清明、建党、建军、国庆等节日,当地驻军都要来此纪念英雄。

偶遇一位中年大姐在那磕头、占卜。后来得知她在为儿子找工作的事来拜。我问她:这庙灵吗?她回答说:“菩萨”都要拜的。在她的信仰实践里,解放军已被归入菩萨的行列。对于大多数的中国人来说,拜的是谁并不重要,重要的是凡路过了就不能落下。军庙的案例对我们理解中国社会的信仰提供了很好的素材,但想要研究这个案例,得先抛弃先入为主的观念,不能称“奇”。

What is the policy behind the church demolition in Zhejiang?

Since the beginning of 2014, thousands of “oversized” crosses have been removed across the Zhejiang Province in southeast China. An already tense situation intensified after the forced demolition of a church complex that began in March 2014. The Three Rivers Church, a magnificent landmark building, became the focus of attention at home and abroad. Although hundreds of Christians gathered spontaneously or organized themselves into efficient human shields, the government refused to compromise. As its base was blasted, the 180-foot high spire finally collapsed, and the whole building was razed to the ground soon afterwards. The official explanation was that the building far exceeded the approved size. Was this all there was to it? What is the policy behind such demolitions?

In March 2013 the Zhejiang provincial government launched a three-year campaign known as “Three Reconstructions and One Demolition,” whose goal was to reconstruct old residential areas, former factory districts and villages in the city. In the course of its implementation, illegal buildings would be demolished. This campaign was swiftly put into action by local governments. The county government of Yongjia (in Wenzhou prefecture) responded energetically to the top-down campaign and straightaway initiated a project – “Building the Province’s Most Beautiful Highway.” In order that the project could be carried through, the Three Rivers Church was to be relocated and its new premises were completed in September 2013. The relocation of this church was selected as one of the model projects of Wenzhou prefecture. Even before the demolition, enthusiastic media coverage of the new church structure could be found on the official website of the Wenzhou government. But then, after the church building had been identified as illegal, the coverage was replaced by a revised one, from which the Three Rivers Church had been erased.

The Yongjia government declared that the Religious Affairs Bureau had given approval for an edifice of 1,881 square meters, but the new building actually measured 11,004 square meters, far exceeding the permitted size. It is worth remembering that this building belonged to an officially recognized church and had been accorded the status of being a model project; therefore local officials could not have been unaware of its construction. It is not uncommon in China for churches, even registered ones, to be built without formal permission first having been sought, usually because people are aware that strict official control of religious venues usually makes obtaining normal approval impossible. In many cases, churches are accorded official recognition after, rather than before, they have been constructed.

The central government never lifted a finger to halt the Zhejiang provincial government’s campaign. What could have been the policy behind these recent demolitions? Scholars of Chinese religions have been looking at a speech by Xi Jinping (President of the People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party) in April 2016, hoping to dig out potential trends in religious policy through a nuanced understanding of the wording. The movement advocating church demolition and the removal of crosses was not once referred to in the speech. Nevertheless, the fact that Jiangsu province, adjacent to Zhejiang, was promoted as a model of “the elimination of simple, rough-and-ready work methods that could result in extreme individual or group events,” that is: in opposition to the Zhejiang Movement, has led scholars to infer that the CCP Central Committee has a negative attitude toward Zhejiang. In spite of the fact that the Zhejiang movement was ignored in the speech, the continuation of the demolition project now suggests that this interpretation was a mistake. The Zhejiang Movement is still very much alive.

Xi Jinping and his administration have launched a series of political movements devised to strengthen ideological control. The current political situation has led academics to suppose that the Zhejiang Movement that targets Christianity so explicitly actually reflects the intention of the top leadership. It is increasingly likely that the central government’s acquiescence in the provincial government’s harshness toward Christianity reflects the fact that the top leaders questioned the efficiency, and consequently the political loyalty, of local officials. It may be that Zhejiang should be seen as a pilot province, and that the new regulations on religious buildings will be applied to all religions across the country.

Given the complexity of religious policy and variability in political atmosphere in today’s China, it is not uncommon that, in many instances, scholars of contemporary Chinese Christianity have to conjecture the true intentions of the top party-state leadership.

 

Originally published by Leiden Religion Blog, Jan 23, 2017:

http://leidenreligieblog.nl/articles/what-is-the-policy-behind-the-demolition-of-chinese-churches