The other significant difference between the Nazis and the Chinese communists was/is their attitude to culture. The Nazis were careful not to destroy any great works of art, apparently on the direct orders of Hitler and Goering. Paintings, sculpture, manuscripts, furniture, etc. was looted and carefully carted off to the Reich to adorn Nazi museums and the homes of Nazi big shots. The Chinese communists by contrast, dedicated themselves to smashing, denigrating, tearing up and destroying as much art as they possibly could. It has been suggested that more cultural treasures (Chinese and Tibetan) were destroyed ‘than at any time or place in human history.’ Oh, and don’t give me the, ‘That was then, this is now’ brush off. The party that perpetrated these crimes is the same party that still rules China, and many of the hooligans who committed the vandalism now sit on the regional and central committees of that party. The portrait of the man who authorized all the destruction still hangs in its place of honor on the Gateway of Heavenly Peace. Can you imagine the German government hanging a portrait of Hitler on the Brandenburg Gate! The CPC has never come clean about its atrocious past. Of course scroll paintings, statues and Ming vases are not sentient, they feel no pain. Read Chang’s Mao – The Untold Story on the fate of several million people tortured and beaten to death during the Cultural Revolution and shudder. A visual reminder of this time can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIrUHVFkm9A
On my journey through Tibet I saw ample evidence of the destruction to Tibetan culture caused by the Chinese, despite nearly 30 years of cleaning up the mess or trying to hide it. The monasteries, hermitages and stupas that once dotted the landscape have nearly all gone, as have the Om Mani Padme Hum invocations that were once etched into the hillsides. A few larger monasteries that might bring in tourist dollars have been repaired, rebuilt and ‘museumized’. When in Lhasa I asked our guide to take us to the Yuto Sampa (Turquoise Bridge) which I had been unable to find during my trip in 1984. It was one of the ‘six sights’ of Lhasa, but he had never heard of it. I asked him to inquire from some older Tibetans who might know its whereabouts, he did, and we found it. I could hardly see this once beautiful monument being as it is now squeezed between some modern flats and a line of shops, one end walled up and serving as a Chinese medicine shop. A plaque in front proclaims that it has the dubious distinction of now being a ‘State Designated Cultural Relic’.But nowhere was the destruction more obvious than in Tholing. Most of the shrines and temples, built in the 10th century, have been reduced to rubble, their sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, ritual objects and furnishings gone forever. The once magnificent Yeshe O Temple, designed like a huge mandala and famed for its beauty, has been completely gutted. All the murals have been scraped off and all the images smashed to bits. The only evidence of its belated ‘State Designated Cultural Relic’ status is a few $1.99 plastic lamps illuminating the empty interior. Walking around the outside I found this fragment of an ancient sutra in a garbage heap.
A series of temples of enormous cultural and historical significance have been destroyed and hardly any fuss has ever been made about it. Imagine what the world would be thinking now if the Nazis had scrapped all the frescos off the Scrovegni Chapel, smashed all the statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi or dynamited the Sistine Chapel! Every time a Chinese delegation turn up at some UNESCO conference they should be confronted with pictures of all this vandalism and asked to explain it.