Hong Jinshi, who normally makes his living as a designer and furniture maker in the town of Dehua, in China’s Fujian Province, has created a unique statue blending the features of former US president Donald Trump with the body and meditative posture of a buddha or Buddhist monk. The first statue was created in the fall of 2020—prior to the presidential election—but has recently garnered international interest.
The statue, cast in all-white, depicts Trump wearing traditional Chinese Buddhist monastic robes in a meditative posture, hands folded in his lap with thumbs lightly touching. His shoulders are relaxed and his eyes are closed. The body is similar to many rotund statues of the Buddha or monks in meditation. But the face is quite clearly that of Donald Trump, with his distinctive side-combed hair.
“Meditation is a look within, where you let go and stop fighting for fame and fortune,” said Hong. “In Trump’s current state, to be honest, he is really well-suited to do some meditation in this way.” (India Today)
In an interview, Hong suggested that the statue was meant to show the contrast between Trump’s worldly ambitions and the Buddhist practice of calm and contemplation.
He noted: “At the time, I thought it was very funny and interesting because Trump is such a successful person. He had been the US president. He has a successful son and daughter and a beautiful wife.” Continuing, he said: “From a Buddhist point of view, he should just let things go now, but he seems to still be struggling for fame and fortune.” (YouTube)
This realization inspired Hong to create a Trump Buddha statue. As he says: “So I thought it was fun to make the Buddha statue to show that personality contrast.” (YouTube)
As for his process, Hong explained: “I designed the image of meditation because it looks like he is relieved from everything. It seems Trump has already let go of all the power and fame. So they form a sharp contrast that makes the statue seem funny.” (YouTube)
Although his idea of combining the images of Trump and a buddha inspired Hong to create the statue, he remarked: “I didn’t think much of it at the time and I didn’t expect it would become so popular.” (YouTube) After interest grew, Hong began making more of the statues in two sizes: a smaller one costing US$150 each and a larger version costing US$3000 each.
The statue was initially made available on the Chinese commerce platform Taobao. Today, versions of the statue are also available on US-based eBay from a seller who ships them from Shanghai.
The seller notes in an eBay listing: “The Trump Buddha is not intended to stir up anything political. In fact, this Laughing Buddha mashup is simply a reminder that, no matter where we fall in the political spectrum, we could all use a little more laughter and joy in our lives!” (The Guardian)
The statue is not the first case of a traditional Buddha image being combined with the facial characteristics of a living person in China. In 2013, an amusement park in the city of Luoyang in Henan Province unveiled a Maitreya statue with an unusual face and swept-back hair. After some time, park managers admitted that the statue had been made in the likeness of the park’s founder, a local entrepreneur.
Buddhists have been known to take offense over the use of Buddha images in poor taste, particularly in sexualized or commercialized contexts. For instance, in 2010, Sri Lanka prevented US rap star Akon from visiting the country over scenes in one of his music videos depicting scantily clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue. And in 2015, a bar manager from New Zealand and two Burmese associates were sentenced to two years in prison in Myanmar for using an image of the Buddha wearing headphones to promote an event.
So far, no known political or religious objections to Hong’s Trumpian Buddha statues have been raised.
Trump Buddha statue that ‘makes your company great again’ (YouTube)
Chinese furniture maker creates statues of Donald Trump dressed in Buddhist robes (India Today)
Chinese entrepreneur sells pensive Donald Trump Buddha statues (The Guardian)
Akon banned from Sri Lanka for Buddha statue video (The Guardian)
Strange Buddha Statue In Luoyang (Getty Images)
The 9 Worst Statues In China (Web Urbanist)
Myanmar Sentences 3 to Prison for Depicting Buddha Wearing Headphones (The New York Times)