A giant statue of Mao Zedong was suddenly torn down last week in rural China.
The steel and concrete statue was built in rural Henan province at a reported cost of $460,000. Entrepreneurs were said to have footed the bill.
The statue of communist China’s founding father was 37 meters tall and was covered in gold paint. It sparked a charged debate on Chinese social media about the role of Mao, who is both revered and reviled.
The Global Times, an official Communist Party newspaper, reported that local villagers had been seen singing revolutionary songs and dancing around the statue. But the article noted that “building Mao temples is not encouraged by the central government or local authorities.”
Official state media reported the statue had been taken down because it had not been approved by authorities.
Mao died in 1976 and is blamed for highly destructive policies that took the lives of millions.
One of his successors, Deng Xiaoping, who helped open China up to the rest of the world in the 1980s, was critical of the cult of personality Mao built.
Current president Xi Jinping warned against blindly “worshipping” leaders like Mao in a 2013 speech.
Others, including the rural poor, still regard Mao as the “Great Helmsman” who helped unify a shattered China after two centuries of humiliation.
The village of Shaoshan, Mao’s hometown, has reportedly seen an increase in pilgrims, and other statues can be seen around the country, as well as his portrait overlooking Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.