It seemed like a good idea at the time: A restaurateur in the Chinese city of Jinan wanted to advertise a dish so good that the Buddha himself scaled walls for a taste, so the owner put up giant sculptures of naked Buddhas climbing over the restaurant.
“The Buddha statues were erected on the wall of a hot pot restaurant in a busy shopping street. One of the statues is shown climbing the wall, with its bottom facing the street, while another was shown waiting on top of the wall, its hands clasped like in a prayer.”
The dish in question is fo tiao qiang, which translates to “Buddha jumps over the wall.” It’s a type of shark fin soup that contains most of the expensive ingredients in Chinese cooking. Here’s The Age newspaper on how the dish got its name:
“A Qing dynasty scholar was travelling by foot with friends and put all the food for the journey in a wine jar made of clay. During the course of the journey he heated the jar over an open fire to warm up the ingredients. The heady cooking smells wafted over to a nearby temple where monks were meditating. One of the monks could resist the smell no more, and jumped over the wall to where the scholar was cooking to partake of the dish, which led to a poet among the party commenting that the dish was so good that even Buddha would jump the wall for it.”
Pictures of the Jinan sculptures went viral, but not everyone saw the humor in them, the South China Morning Post reported.
“I burst into tears when I saw naked Buddhas climbing over the wall!” Miaoming, a practitioner of Zen Buddhism from the Beihai Zen Monastery in Qinghai province, wrote in his blog. “How come a nation with a thousand-year history has so little respect for its own culture?”
The statues are unlikely to have an afterlife in this world: The Xinhua news agency reported that they were “destroyed” following the controversy.