POTD: Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation
Nanjing, China

I’m not a Buddhist but I find the architecture, lighting, and artwork of Buddhist temples to be impressive spaces that are generally in their own way calming and relaxing places. (This is also the case with old cathedrals.) So it was very jarring for me to be wandering around peacefully in this temple and see this swastika on the sleeping Buddha statue. Even though backwards from the Nazi swastika it still did a heck of a job disrupting my otherwise calm attitude.

Long before Hitler made the swastika into a hated symbol, it was a common and important symbol to Buddhists, as well as many other groups around the world including some Native Americans. To my knowledge, none of these earlier uses has ever been associated with the kind of horrors perpetrated by the Third Reich. (The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. has a nice history of the symbol on their website here.)

This is probably one of the most obscene examples of cultural appropriation there is. I suppose you have to give the Buddhists credit for not abandoning their sacred symbol given it’s more recent negative connotations, but boy did it spoil the mood in that temple for me!

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