It was certainly an audacious project. The 120-foot-tall statue of Mao Zedong, the much-loved and much-feared Communist revolutionary who built modern China, was said to have cost entrepreneurs half a million dollars to build. That the statue was built in the rural Henan Province, one of the areas worst hit by famines during Mao's radical industrialization and collectivization projects, led some to feel that it was inappropriate.
When photographs of the golden statue appeared online this week, they quickly spread through social media -- prompting some outrage, but mostly mockery. Many social media users suggested that the fearful Chairman Mao had been depicted on the toilet, for example.
Apparently, Beijing wasn't too happy with the attention. On Friday, new photos began to spread on social media that suggested the statue was being torn down.
State media confirmed the destruction of the statue, citing local officials who said that the site was built without permits. Photographs taken for The New York Times on Friday seemed to suggest only rubble remained.
It seems likely that the international attention placed upon the statue had helped cause its downfall -- according to reports in Chinese state media, construction on the project had begun months ago and continued with little incident until this week.
Mao is still widely respected in China, and his image has become something of a kitsch icon, sold on T-shirts in tourist areas. However, there have been signs that the state has become concerned about his continuing sway over people in the nation. In late December, state newspaper Global Times published an article that warned that Mao was being worshiped "alongside other folk deities like the Jade Emperor and the God of Wealth," with people in rural areas building temples and praying that he will help them "get rid of ill fortune, bear a baby boy or get rich quick."