China has a deep-rooted history of mimicking diverse aspects of countries. The imitation is not just limited to technology, music or art, but the whole culture and exact replicas of architectural monuments! According to the author of Original copies, Bianca Bosker, this Chinese tradition of architectural mimicry is more than two thousand years old where they add their own flavour to the building and place it wherever it fits the Chinese context. Throughout history, many countries have been inspired by the culture and architecture of other countries. However, China’s imitation scale is overwhelming. Over time, China has witnessed copying of architectural style to entire cities as well.
The origin of the notion can be traced back to the third century when the emperor Qin Shi Huang built a replica of a rival’s palace in his own capital as a sign of victory. Such an extended history of mimicry indicates that the idea is not considered as hostile. In fact, Bosker describes in her book that the Chinese replicas don’t pay tribute to the original ones but rather stands as a statement of power and control.
Here are some of the iconic buildings which find their replicas in China.
1. London Tower Bridge:
A replica of London Tower Bridge is made over the Yuanhe Pond in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. The structure is double the size of the original one with four 40 m tall turrets. The bridge accommodates a multi-lane motorway, the construction of which was completed in 2012. According to the Chinese media, the government invested 2.2 million euros to make the structure look more ‘Chinese’ and match with its surroundings architecture style.
2. Eiffel tower:
A gated community in Tianducheng, Hangzhou, has a 108-meter tall replica of Eiffel tower. The idea of the real estate developers was to create a classical European charm city known as the ‘Paris of the East’. The construction of Eiffel tower was completed in 2007 and soon the town was announced as a ghost town since most of the houses remained vacant. Therefore, the planned construction of the White House, Mount Rushmore, etc. was also stopped. Now the Eiffel tower stands in the bushy area of the city which is used by the couple as a photography back-drop.
The Roman Colosseum historically served an amphitheatre for 50,000 audiences and acted as a space for sports activities, executions and gladiator fights. The Colosseum replica in China is used as an outdoor concert and event space which can accommodate 2,000 people. The replica is located in Macau’s Fisherman’s Wharf and was constructed in 2005.
A new theme park in Lanzhou bears its own Parthenon to attract the visitors. The park aspired to become a ‘highland of creativity and tourism’ by replicating the monuments of two ancient civilizations. The original Parthenon, situated in Greece, is a 2500 years old temple which is dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena. It is among the very few remaining monuments of the country.
5. Great Sphinx of Giza:
The same theme park also accommodates a life-size Sphinx. The Sphinx and Parthenon cover an area of over 2.7 sq.km. Another replica of the statue was made in the Hebei province in 2014. After the complaint by Egypt ministry to UNESCO, the statue was allegedly demolished. However, just after two years of the news, a massive replica of Sphinx reappeared in the northern province of China.
6. The Louvre
Rather than having an iconic location and importance like the original one built in 1989, the replica of the Louvre pyramid sits next to the fake Sphinx in the Chinese theme park in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province. The original Pyramide du Louvre is located in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris, France. This glass and the metal pyramid was designed by the famous Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. Replication of such an iconic structure has led to online outburst with people accusing China of its ‘duplitecture culture’ to attract tourists from worldwide.
7. Leaning Tower of Pisa
With the original Leaning Tower of Pisa located over 8000 kilometres, the metropolitan city of China, Shanghai has its own replica of the tower which attracts tourists from around the country. However, the replica is only 1/4th the size of the original one with a 7.10-degree angle of inclination.
A rural district Mentougou, 18 miles from Beijing, has its office complex built as a replica of the Kremlin. The original Kremlin palace was home to the Russian rulers throughout history. Whereas the local government of Mentougou built in 2013, accommodates the department of the weather forecast, seismology, landscaping bureau and water services. With the golden onion domes and arches being copied from the original Kremlin, the building doesn’t match it proportion wise. Even the windows have a second-tier city look and the factory chimneys in the background depict the character of the place.
9. Wangjing Soho
Designed by the starchitect Zaha Hadid, Wangjing Soho is a retail hub built in Beijing in 2015. The building consisting of 3 pebble-shaped structures was unveiled in August 2011. Even before the project was completed, its replica was spotted in Chongqing, southwest China. The spectators who come across the replica claim that it is a pirated copy of the Wangjing Soho.
10. Notre Dame du Haut the chapel
Notre Dame du Haut the chapel in Ronchamp, France was built by the iconic architect Le Corbusier in 1954 as a classical example of modernism architecture. After forty years of its construction, an exact copy of the chapel appeared in Zhengzhou. The replica was soon demolished after being sued by the Le Corbusier foundation, yet its ruins now serve as a backdrop for a barbeque restaurant.
Architecture has seen plagiarism in all its form throughout history. The architectural style of Europe has been extensively adopted by the US and replicas of Eiffel tower have appeared in many countries. However, the extent of producing replicas of famous structures is a persistent practice in China. Several newly emerging communities and buildings are an exact copy of the existing structures. This very notion is explained by Bianca Bosker in her book where she says that these buildings intend to depict China’s dominance and a metaphor of owning the best architecture of the world.