In China, fo tiao qiang is an expensive delicacy that typically includes shark fin, scallops, quail eggs, ham, abalone, pork tendon, and chicken. It also translates to “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall,” a kind of linguistic joke on vegetarians with the implicit claim that the soup can entice even meat-eschewing Buddhist monks to come racing over to the establishment that serves it.
One restaurant in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, five hours south of Beijing, decided to take the interpretation of the dish literally. They installed two giant, naked Buddhas clambering on top of the building in search of the soup–fat rolls, cellulite, everything.
At first the marketing ploy worked, in a sense, because the images, circulated by state-run China News, China Radio International, and Beijing Youth Daily, went viral. But on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, many Buddhists were horrified.
“I burst into tears when I saw naked Buddhas climbing over the wall! How come a nation with a thousand-year history has so little respect for its own culture?” the South China Morning Post quoted one Weibo user as saying.
By Monday morning the Buddhas were gone, ostensibly removed by local authorities, according to a micro-blog of Jinan residents. It’s just one more example of how the virtual can shape the built environment, though the images are likely seared permanently into many brains.