The statue of Chinese war god Guan Yu is being met with resistance from the authorities over the astronomical costs involved in its relocation.
China’s anti-graft agency on Monday urged regulators to exercise stricter oversight in the approval of large projects and increase supervision of illegal structures to combat corruption and safeguard public interests. The sharp words from the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection were in reference to the hundreds of millions of yuan involved in the construction and relocation costs of the massive statue in the central city of Jingzhou.
“It’s a waste of more than 300 million yuan ($46 million) — first, it was constructed illegally, and then removed,” it said of the statue in Hubei province.
In December, plans to move the statue just over 57-meter-high to a suburban area about eight kilometers away from the original site at the Guan Gong Park won approval from local authorities after the central government said it “ruined Jingzhou’s historical appearance and culture.” The project was estimated to cost 155 million yuan and scheduled to launch in January this year, according to official records.
But it wasn’t until early September that the dismantling of the statue took place. Videos circulating on social media over the weekend showed pieces of the 1,200-ton bronze statue, with its head separated from the rest of its body.
With construction completed in 2016, mega statues such as Guan Yu — as well as Buddha, and even American actor Marylin Monroe — have been used by local authorities to attract tourists to their towns. In Jingzhou, where Guan Yu lost one of his most famous battles during the Three Kingdoms era, the bronze statue of the general was touted by local developers as the biggest of its kind in the world.
But the statue hasn’t proven a winner for Jingzhou.
In the few years since it opened for business, the warrior god amassed less than 13 million yuan in revenue, according to state broadcaster China Central Television. Local authorities said developers had only applied to build the 10-meter base for the statue, and defied rules that forbid building projects that exceeded 24-meters-tall near the city’s historical area.
A local restaurant owner who lives near Guan Gong Park told Sixth Tone the site has only appealed to relatively small groups of tourists, as it only houses the statue and a museum.
“I don’t feel good watching the head of Guan Yu being taken down,” said the 36-year-old resident who declined to be named due to privacy concerns. “It’s a waste of money and manpower. How could the Jingzhou government use this statue as a gimmick to promote tourism for years, as it was illegally built?”