In a move first announced late last year, workers in the Chinese city of Jingzhou have begun dismantling a 190-foot-tall bronze statue representing the fierce, guandao-brandishing likeliness of Guan Yu, a venerated military general who lived during the late Han dynasty and into the Three Kingdoms era. Hundreds of years after his death in 220 AD, Yu was later deified as a god of war and prosperity during the Sui dynasty. He remains widely revered today, particularly by police officers and businessmen, throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, and beyond.
Costing an estimated $26 million and taking three years to construct, Jingzhou’s colossal Guan Yu statue, which until very recently, stood atop a 30-foot-tall base that doubled as a museum and shrine, rendered many (Western) internet users completely smitten when it was completed in 2016. “Incredibly Epic Statue of Ancient Chinese Warrior God Unveiled,” read a Popular Mechanics headline published at the time.
Locals in Jingzhou, an ancient city in the south of the Hubei province, however, were apparently never taken with the majestic epic-ness of the skyline-dominating monument within Guanyi Park. Neither was the central Chinese government, which declared that the monolithic Lord Yu had “ruined Jingzhou’s historical appearance and culture” after complaints from residents continued to roll in. And so, as demanded by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the 1,200-metric-ton “waste of money” is now being carefully dismantled—the warrior-god’s ginormous head was the first to go—and relocated to a less conspicuous, more tourist-friendly location several miles away in the suburban city of Dianjiangtai. (“Demolition Gang Beheads Giant War Deity in China’s Hubei,” declared Radio Free Asia.)
As detailed by the South China Morning Post, the demolition and reconstruction effort, which is being led by the state-owned Jingzhou Tourism Investment and Development Group, will ultimately cost almost as much—just under $24 million— as it did to erect the offending statue. It’s unclear what will become of the pedestal-museum/shrine at the site and if a new, similar base will be constructed at the new site in Dianjiangtai.
Per the Post, the statue, which was constructed for Guinness World Records inclusion in mind as the world’s tallest bronze likeness of Guan Yu, might be technically illegal as local regulations forbid the construction of buildings over 24 meters (just shy of 79 feet). However, construction was allowed to proceed back in 2013 during a period of confusion as to whether or not statues perched atop height-compliant buildings were subject to the rules.
“We thought there should be a limit on the height of buildings, but there was no specific rule on statues,” the Post reported Qin Jun, deputy head of the Jingzhou Municipal Bureau of Natural Resources and Planning, as telling state broadcaster CCTV.
“This is all taxpayers’ money,” one incensed Jingzhou resident told Radio Free Asia of the funds spent on constructing, relocating, and reconstructing the mammoth tourist magnet, which was reportedly only brought in $2 million since first opening. “Just think how much good they could have done if they’d spent that amount of money on solving real problems faced by ordinary people.”