A group of villagers have invoked the wrath of the locals after they vandalised two 1,400-old Buddha statues by painting them with vivid colours claiming it was for religious offerings.
The intricate stone carvings that reportedly date back to the late Northern Wei Dynasty (386 to 535 AD), were only discovered in 2021 in an extremely remote area of Nanjiang County, in China’s south-western Sichuan Province.
Experts said that because the area was so hard to reach, they had only set up a shed and surveillance cameras before a proper protection system could be put in place.
Security staff could only watch the real-time footage as a group of elderly villagers came up to the statues and slathered them with paint.
Personnel had immediately been sent to the scene, but by the time they arrived, the stone figures had already been painted in bright red and blue.
The incident infuriated many locals, who criticised the elders, saying they “disfigured” the priceless artefacts.
Mr Song, a cultural enthusiast said: “They stood for more than 1400 years, and got destroyed by ordinary people. It’s hard to accept.”
The Bazhong City Cultural Relics Bureau said: “Those who painted the carvings are all old men in their 70s and 80s.
“They claimed it was to make offerings to the Bodhisattva. Dealing with them is challenging; we can only criticise and try to educate them.
“Currently, we are trying to figure out our next steps.”
The bureau said that the pigment used to paint the carvings is mainly acrylic, and experts have been invited to assess the damage.
The bureau added: “It should be restorable. We will also strengthen cultural relic protection education and appeal to everyone through the media to raise awareness of cultural relic protection.”