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China-based firm's plans to build Buddha statue in Mahayana tradition in Laos sparks anger among Theravada Buddhists

ANI | Updated: Nov 16, 2021 17:16 IST

Vientiane [Laos], November 16 (ANI): A China-based company's plans to build a 100-metre statue of the Buddha in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition on the Mekong river bank in Vientiane, Laos has sparked anger among the local citizens as most of them follow the Thervada tradition of Buddhism.
Though they spring from the same root, the Mahayana and Thervada traditions of Buddhism have several minor differences.
The Shanghai-based company, Wang Feng Shanghai Real Estate Co. is eying to establish the supposed statute near the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Vientiane, reported The Hong Kong Post.
The idea of building a Buddha statute from Mahayana tradition, against the accepted Theravada tradition in Laos has evidently sparked rage among the people. China has been using its economic and financial muscle to manipulate politics in Laos for quite some time, but the recent religious move against the accepted local tradition has ignited anti-Chinese sentiments in the country, reported The Hong Kong Post.

According to a recent social media survey, the Shanghai-based company has been receiving condemnation against the construction plan of the Buddha statute as a tourist attraction in Vientiane. Taking to social media Laotians have claimed that if China goes ahead with the construction of the statute, it is going to be the tallest in Vientiane. China's efforts to become the leader of Asian Buddhism by exporting its version with local sentiments in Laos, the locals are enraged and argue that the said construction will take over Laotian Buddhism.
In Laos, the statues tend to be of Buddha sitting cross-legged, unlike the one planned by the Chinese developer is in standing posture, reported the Hong Kong Post.
Furthermore, the Buddha statue will be built near the Pha That Luang, the gold-plated Buddhist stupa in the heart of Vientiane. Reportedly, only those statutes can be enshrined in temples that follow the Lao style or the Lan Xang style.
A similar social media outrage happened in November 2020, when another Chinese company hung Chinese red lanterns on utility poles, it had constructed in Vientiane. The China-based company took the red lanterns down after protests. Reportedly, Chinese companies in an attempt to force control had been encroaching rural lands to set up banana plantations, gaining further social media criticism.
China is funding an infrastructure building spree, hydropower projects and the first bullet train in Laos. The China-Laos rail link has been financially draining for Laos, leading to debts. As per the reports, Laos' US$ 20 billion economy has US$ 12.6 billion in foreign debt, of which China accounts for approximately US$ 5.9 billion, reported The Hong Kong Post. (ANI)