Tianducheng – A Small Piece of Paris, Made in China

It appears that the Chinese have tired of imitating objects, so they’ve now moved on to entire cities. How else could you explain the gated community of Tianducheng, that boasts its very own Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and European-style villas? Located near Hangzhou, the capital of the coastal Zhejiang province, the community built by real estate company Zhejiang Guangsha Co. Ltd. in 2007 is a housing development meant to attract China’s rich and powerful. The developers apparently wanted to give the wealthy Chinese a chance to enjoy European culture without actually having to travel thousands of miles.  It took five years of meticulous construction and landscaping to create the entire 19 sq. km (12 sq. mile) community.

According to Lu Xiaotian, the company’s director, “The community can house up to 10,000 people comfortably.” Apart from the obvious touristy feel, the community also provides amenities ranging from a school, a country club and a hospital. All this, in the midst of the serene surroundings of a park atmosphere. The real estate group has largely capitalized on the fact that Chinese honeymooners tend to flock to Paris, and also that French designer labels and wine are popular status symbols in major Chinese cities. So the community of Tianducheng gives residents the opportunity to sit on the steps by their very own Bassin de Latone, a cleverly done imitation of the famous fountain located in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. They can also admire the Eiffel Tower, which is a 108 m high replica of the 324 m original, in their very own neighborhood. Apart from the obvious imitations of famous monuments, there are the Parisienne-style gardens surrounded by rows and rows of European-style villas.

Photo: mdnphoto.com

For all its architectural genius, there is very little information available today about Tianducheng. The last known population of the community was about 2000, way back in 2007. This might be due to the fact that it is only a part of a string of such theme-towns in the area. Thames Town, located nearby and opened in 2006, is a little London with Georgian and Victorian-styled terrace houses. It had even managed to cause a minor uproar of sorts when the English publican Gail Caddy accused the town of replicating Lyme Regis, her pub in England. Italian and German-inspired towns are also said to exist in the vicinity, and the last we heard was that a Chinese firm was planning to recreate Dorchester, the village that inspired novelist Thomas Hardy. Not too long ago, a replica of an entire Austrian town was unveiled in the Guangdong province. The $940 million project allows people to explore exact replicas of the architecture and streets of Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Looking at pictures, it is quite hard to tell between the original village and its imitation. Again, there was controversy involved with this project when the Chinese real estate developers did not bother to inform the residents of Hallstatt of their counterfeiting plans. According to a hotel owner, Monika Wenger, “They should have asked the owners of the hotel and the other buildings if we agree with the idea to rebuild Hallstatt in China, and they did not.”

Photo: mdnphoto.com

Despite all the attractions that life in Tianducheng has to offer, the truth remains that it is more of a ghost town sinceno one except the super-rich can afford to live there. The main reason behind its construction is actually to promote GDP growth in the nation – which is said to be the government’s number one priority. So for now, it seems that Tianducheng is only popular  as a backdrop for newlywed couples to use in their wedding photos.

 Photo: mdnphoto.com

 Photo: mdnphoto.com


   

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