Peking through the trees: the controversial muscle-bound naked statue has been moved to a more obscure spot on campus. (File Photo/CFP)
After staring for three years at his companion on the campus of Peking University, a controversial nude male statue has been quietly separated from his partner, a statue of the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. The ancient sage is now left guarding the entrance of the university's Guanghua School of Management alone.
The statue of a fully naked muscleman has generated heated debate on campus as well as in local media since it was erected in front of the new school building three years ago.
Beijing News reported that many students suddenly discovered something missing on the campus of China's most prestigious university of late. University administrators explained that removing one of the statues was a decision made by the school of management. They stressed that the statue was moved not due to controversy or public debate and has simply been relocated within the school compound. Further investigation revealed that the nude sculpture had indeed quietly been transplanted to a more obscure spot behind two tall trees.
Less controversy surrounded the statue of Lao Tzu (604 BC-531 BC), standing at a height of almost three meters, although many wondered why the founder of Taoism, wearing a ceremonial cap, was depicted with his mouth wide open and sticking out his tongue.
A bigger uproar was caused by the nude statue. The artwork, taken by most observers as a "Mongolian Chinese," is not just much bigger at five meters but totally naked, with dark shining skin from top to toe and his genitals proudly on display.
Supporters of the nude artwork think the contrasting styles of the two statues, both gifts donated to the management school, reflect the liberal spirit of the university and may serve as reminders to future MBAs to keep an open mind and think outside of the box (they will no doubt have mastered western-style management speak in the course of their studies). They also feel the sharp contrast between Lao Tzu and a nude man is unique and interesting while reflecting the open and freethinking culture of the school.
Yet many have found the juxtaposition of the two statues too much to swallow and frown at the nudity of a macho man who looks like a heroic Mongolian wrestling champion ready to take on any foe.
One professor at the university voiced the loudest criticism and condemned the statue as depraved, calling it disgusting to have male sex organs on display around female students and children. Many students also called for the statue to be dismantled or moved to a museum.
Public opinion remains divided. Some support the statue's relocation, saying it is no wonder that even Lao Tzu pokes out his tongue in bewilderment when faced with such a rude companion. Opponents have questioned how the university, which supposedly embraces free spirits and tolerates pluralistic values, cannot accommodate a piece of art. Citing the recent scandal of a professor allegedly using the university's prestigious name to coax women into bed, they said the foremost priority of the university was to cultivate decent behavior among their instructors instead of finding fault with a nude statue.
Lao Tzu 老子
Hou Jianguo is president of the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province and was also a member of the 11th NPC Standing Committee. A native of Fuqing in Fujian ...