relatively recent paint job given to some historic rock carvings in Sichuan province has been widely panned on Chinese social media for treading the line between garish and childish.
“This doesn’t look like a cultural relic, it looks like a cartoon,” wrote one Weibo user. “Hundreds of years later, archeologists will wonder, ‘Did ancient people really think that this looks good?'” added another. “These cultural relics have been ruined, the leader who handled this matter should be punished!” yet another outraged netizen wrote.
The carvings and Buddha can be seen in a protected temple in Anyue county. They date back to the Song dynasty (960-1279). Their more recent “restoration” was exposed by Xu Xin, a researcher and guide working at the famous Dunhuang Mogao Caves in Gansu province, who posted the colorful pics onto his Weibo account on Saturday.
In response to the online uproar, the local government of Anyue county said earlier this week that the “restoration work” had actually been carried out back in 1995, “spontaneously” by local artisans who pooled their own money and resources. Officials said that once they found out about what was going on, they quickly put a stop to it and no similar amateur restoration projects have been carried out since then.
Well-intentioned as that restoration effort may have been, unfortunately, now, the damage done to the carvings cannot be undone. The Buddha will remain technicolor for at least another 1,000 years.