Just add three letters to Paris, and you have paradise.” — Jules Renard

Enchanted by the beauty of the French city of light, China seems to have created its very own version of the Parisian wonder modeled after classic French architecture. Located on the eastern coasts of China some 6000 miles away from the city of lights, Tianducheng is China’s very own version of Paris. Also known as the Sky city, Tianducheng is a luxury real estate in the suburban region of Hangzhou. A 12 square-mile tourist destination, it is designed to mimic the grandeur of the French architectural spender.

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Around the globe, many such mysterious abandoned cities stand out as dormant time capsules. China is no stranger to building spectacular replicas of famous places. However Tianducheng, like many themed towns, seems to have failed miserably as it was unsuccessful in grabbing the attention of the people.

Introduction to the Project

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Lost in time: Tianducheng, China - Sheet1
Ghost City of Tianducheng_©REUTERS/Aly Song

This project was started in 2007 by the Chinese government as part of the preparation for the expected dearth of housing with a surge in population in the near future. This knockoff version of Paris despite its eerie resemblance exists mainly as a ghost town today. Originally built for housing 10,000 residents the city now has only 10% of that, a population of 2,000 residents. The empty street, widely unoccupied houses, boarded-up shops bear testimony to this new age ghost town.

Reasons Behind the Abandonment

Scattered around a long barren landscape in the countryside with its very own 300 feet tall Eiffel Tower; Tianducheng is a project that was doomed to fail. The primary reason stems from its odd location and abruptly ending roads amidst hectares of farmland, located two hours south of the modern metropolis of Shanghai making it less accessible from the nearby city transportation. 

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Added to the high real estate prices and change in economic growth Tianducheng has resulted in cheap replacement for wedding photographers and young couples looking for picture-perfect backgrounds. According to a news report, only half of the residential tower blocks were completed by January 2015.   

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Farmers working in front of Eiffel Tower at Tianducheng_©REUTERS/Aly Song

The Condition Today 

The town boasts of miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower, the fountain from Luxembourg Gardens, and Champ Elysèes. Boarded by neoclassical-style buildings the Parisian facades, cobblestoned streets despite their charm failed to be the “Paris of the east” it aspired to be. Through its fog and haze-covered grey skies, one can see the mansard roofs and Haussmannian boulevards. The garden surrounding the Eiffel tower is littered with people selling dumplings in place of baguettes, the water canals in Champ Elysèes dried up and the business doors bolted. 

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The town has only one hotel open for foreign guests which is aptly named Tianducheng International Resort. It is surrounded by a handful of eateries serving mainly traditional Chinese cuisine. The only real estate agent in the town does not have enough window space to display all the properties up for sale and the office is dark and dingy. Lush Parisian-style gardens planted are now being used by the residents to grow vegetates. 

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Parisian residences in Tianducheng_©REUTERS/Aly Song
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Lonely Streets in Tianducheng _©REUTERS/Aly Song

The attention to detail is impressive down to the small details such as replicas of the street furniture. Contrary the only bustling end of the city is the construction site where new residential buildings are coming up each day and the investors information centre which houses a 3D model of the completed version of the town. The jarring juxtaposition of the Chinese signs decorating the European buildings acts as a constant reminder of where one is.With an underwhelming amount of foot traffic, Tianducheng has a ghostly feel to it.

Comparison of the Real from the Faux

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Paris-based photographer Francois Prost decided to travel to Tianducheng to document the town’s re-creations of the architectural wonder. He created a series drawing parallels and comparing the likes of the city which seems to be similar only in architecture. He described the city as very much rooted in Chinese culture and is yet to carve an identity of its own. Francois Prost believes Tianducheng’s proper identity is more likely to evolve over the next half-century depending on what the people living there make of it.

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Pictures comparing the aerial view of Paris(right) and Tianducheng (Left)_©Francois Prost
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Pictures comparing the block perspective of Paris(right) and Tianducheng(Left)_©Francois Prost
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Pictures comparing Eiffel Tower of Paris(right) to Eiffel Tower of Tianducheng (Left)_©Francois Prost
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Pictures comparing Versailles Neptune Fountain OF France (right) to Replica at Tianducheng (Left)_©Francois Prost
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Pictures comparing Street Lights of Paris(right) to Replica at Tianducheng (Left)_©Francois Prost
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Pictures Night view of Eiffel Tower at France (right) to Replica at Tianducheng (Left)_©Francois Prost

Future of the Ghost City

In recent times there has been a steady rise in the number of residents however the city remains mainly abandoned. It is expected that if the urban cities ever spill into the countryside, Tianducheng is equipped to house people in its Parisian apartments.

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References
Alesha and Jarryd. ” Tianducheng – China’s Strange City Of Paris”. Accessed via nomadasaurus.com.

Nick Marfi. (Dec 07, 2019). ART CULTURE: “You Won’t Believe How Much This Chinese City Looks Like Paris.” Accessed via architecturaldigest.

Author

A student of PMCA Cuttack. She believes nothing is black or white but grey. Like the meaning of her name, she is in quest of her grey; the perfect balance in life be it through her words or design. Her love for architecture, history, and baking best describes her.

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