Fake monuments?

Fake monuments?

A country known for fake designer watches and bags has gone one step further. It has replica buildings.

China has, among others, a miniature Mount Rushmore, Eiffel Tower and an entire Austrian village.

The replica structures - also dubbed duplitecture - can appear bizarre to outsiders, but make sense to some.

"I think it's a good thing as I can see things from places that I've never been to," said a man surnamed Fu, 32, sitting in a Chongqing park scattered with sculptures such as Michelangelo's David, Rodin's Thinker and the gigantic heads of four American presidents.

Copying is "something China does", a woman said as she walked past, adding: "I think it's a good thing as we can learn from the experience of others."

The "duplitecture" trend developed alongside China's real estate boom in recent decades, especially for creations conveying prestige and success, said Ms Bianca Bosker, the New York-based author of Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China.

Some of the most eye-popping examples of duplitecture in China are a copy of an Austrian alpine village and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Hallstatt in the southern province of Guangdong, which even the official news agency Xinhua called "a bold example of China's knock-off culture".

An assemblage of Parisian monuments, including the Eiffel Tower and a fountain from Versailles, stand in Hangzhou province, as does a French village.

In the same vein, Hebei province has an imitation Sphinx, while outside Shanghai sits Thames Town, an English-themed suburb featuring a statue of Winston Churchill, a church from Bristol and lookalikes of guardsmen at Buckingham Palace.

Though the imitations are open to mockery, Ms Bosker said that such replicas provide an easy way to convey prestige on a huge scale.


"In the US, we see people who copy as unimaginative thieves. In China, copiers have been viewed with more nuance - copying can be a sign of skill and it can also be a really practical solution to a problem," she maintained.

That pragmatic streak also drives the mass production of knock-offs such as Italian handbags, Swiss watches, French wine and Hollywood films.

The fakes allow the Chinese to enjoy what they could not otherwise afford, said a man strolling at an amusement park in Chongqing featuring a miniature New York and Venice-like canals.

"In terms of respecting others' creativity, it's not okay. But for a China that's still developing, for a certain time there's a use for it," he said.

"When China's economy becomes developed enough, then there won't be a market for copied goods."

A 27-year-old woman surnamed Huang, walking past the fake Manhattan with a friend, had a different objection to the replicas. She said her compatriots should embrace their own heritage.

"It seems like Chinese people have this view that anything foreign is good, that anything with English words, whether or not they can read it, is good," she said.

"China is not inferior to anyone, but nobody really cares a lot about China's ancient past."

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