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Yue Fei's facelift sparks debate
(Zhejiang Online

How to renovate or remodel the statue of national hero Yue Fei has become a hot topic of debate for residents of Hangzhou.

Yue, a military general, lived during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) when Hangzhou served as China's capital.

Located near the shore of the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, now the capital city of East China's Zhejiang Province, the Yue Fei Temple, where the statue stands, is one of the city's big draws. Official statistics show the temple attracted about 1.6 million visitors last year.

The site was also listed for State-level protection in 1961.

The statue has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. The latest remodeling was in 1979 after the statue was destroyed during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

With the paint now faded and peeling and the sword showing cracks, the local Gardens and Cultural Relics Bureau is now considering another renovation.

Some people insist the statue should be scrapped and a new one - more in line with the true likeness of Yue - be erected in its place. Others suggest only a small renovation is necessary, while still others demand retaining the status quo.

Yue has been revered for generations for his unremitting efforts to unify the country against all odds. He was falsely charged with treachery by a jealous prime minister who wanted to compromise with the Jin Dynasty, which was occupying the northern part of the country. Yue was judged guilty and executed at the age of 39.

However, 20 years after his death, the new emperor recognized the general's loyalty, overturned all charges against him, and had him reburied with full honours in the specially built temple.

Now the temple is a memorial to the spirit of loyalty and patriotism, which General Yue unerringly displayed.

Ding Yazheng, secretary-general of Hangzhou Yue Fei Research Association, believes that only a minor renovation should be made because the Song general should not be portrayed wearing clothing from the Ming Dynasty.

Ding explains that the design of round flowers on the statue's clothing does not belong to the Song Dynasty, for it appeared later in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The mistake is repeated on the general's boots and helmet.

The renovation should focus on rectifying obvious mistakes, Ding added.

However, He Zongli, a history professor at Zhejiang University, suggests remodeling is necessary to restore the true picture of history.

At a symposium last month, He said that according to the "Zhong Xin Four Generals' Pictures" painted by Southern Song artist Liu Songnian, Yue was a scholar-like general, plumper and shorter than the statue, which portrays the general as a typical military officer, straight and tall.

Nevertheless, a recent online survey conducted by shows that about 64 per cent of respondents oppose remodeling the statue.

One respondent said Yue's real appearance is not as important as the great spirit the statue represents.

"We appreciate the advice from experts, but in fact nobody knows the true appearance of Yue Fei. Different historical periods describe him in different ways," says Shen Lixin, an official with the Yue Fei Temple Administration.

The image of Yue has been deified for centuries, and what is more important is that people have accepted the image of Yue. It would be difficult for them to accept a new one, Shen noted.

"A statue is the language of time, which reflects an era's political, economic and cultural features," Shen says.

Shen believes the appearance of Yue in the "Zhong Xin Four Generals' Pictures" is the truest portrait of Yue in all extant materials.

"If we try to rebuild the statue to show the so-called true appearance of Yue, visitors might find it hard to accept as they thought a general should be powerful, high and commanding."

The renovation of the statue is scheduled to be carried out next year. Every proposed change will be subject to comments from experts and residents, according to Shen.

From: China Daily Author: Shao Xiaoyi

Hangzhou 27/38 Clear

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