'Restoration' ends up being a 'desecration' of Buddhist frescos

Posted Oct 22, 2013 by Karen Graham
Frescos inside a Buddhist temple, dating back to the Qing Dynasty in China's northeastern province of Liaoning, were desecrated in a failed attempt at restoration. The resulting artwork now looks like a poor attempt at cartooning.
The Chaoyang Temple in Liaoning Provence  China
The Chaoyang Temple in Liaoning Provence, China
Elizabeth Thomsen
What is the worth of a nearly 300 year-old Buddhist temple in the march toward the materialistic wealth that comes with progress? The temple, located in Chaoyang, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, dates back to the early Qing dynasty (1644-1911) in China.
The Buddhist frescos inside the temple were difficult to see clearly, most of them faded and the stucco and paint deteriorating with age. Everything changed when the Temple Abbot approached the Chaoyang City-Level Cultural Heritage officials, requesting restoration of the frescos be done. Permission was given and the work was done.
What is strange about this story is that there is no way of knowing when the request for the work was first submitted, or when the restoration took place, or better yet, who did the work. Chinese officials have yet to release that information.
What is known is this, the desecration, and that's the best way to describe what was done, was made known to the world when a Chinese blogger, known as "Wujiaofeng" posted photos of the "restored" frescos on line along with pictures of the originals.
With the story out and people all over China venting their condemnation and outrage online, officials promptly "sacked" two lesser officials, one, the officer in charge of temple affairs, and the other, the head of the Cultural Heritage monitoring team in Chaoyang where the temple is located. Another city official, Li Haifeng, said the Communist Party Chief of the office responsible for the areas outside the temple complex has been given a "warning."
Another city official made the comment that the temple Abbot should have gone up to the provincial level when requesting the restoration work be done on the frescos. This would have ensured that National Standards were met.
Chaoyang is a prefecture-level city, and in China, it is actually not a city in the usual sense. It is instead an administrative entity. Chaoyang has a central urban area (the actual city), and includes the much larger rural areas surrounding it. These larger areas can include other cities, towns and villages.
Chaoyang is the largest prefecture-level city in Liaoning Province, and covers 7,700 sq. miles in area. The city has a long and rich history, dating back more than 5,000 years and is considered the birthplace of Chinese Culture.
There are many Buddhist temples within the Provence, and the Chinese government has been accused of condoning the destruction of not only some of the temples, but other national Heritage sites, and all in the name of progress.