There is no need to pay exorbitant airfares to visit famous landmarks worldwide when you live in China and have them all in your own backyard.
Thanks to China’s ‘duplitecture’ (duplicated architecture), half of Europe can be visited without taking a step out of the country.
Are these copycat structures an outward manifestation of a lack of originality and cultural self-confidence, or actually a representation of China’s growing wealth and construction expertise?
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower located in Hangzhou bears strong physical similarity to the original. Interestingly, the 1887 construction of this tower was met with much opposition from French people who objected on artistic grounds.
“By showing that it’s making it big, China has turned to faking it big,” commented Bianca Bosker, author of Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, reported by CBC. “I think that it’s important to recognize that by recreating Paris, China isn’t paying homage to France. Its celebrating China’s own successes.”
The Great Sphinx of Giza
This full-scale replica of the famous Egyptian monolith can be found reclining outside of Shijiazhuang. It was once ordered to be demolished in 2016 in acquiescence to Egypt’s demand, a direction which Chinese workers acted upon by decapitating the mythical creature.
However, its head was reattached in 2018, prompting a ‘furious’ Egypt to file a complaint with UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations.
Italy’s Grand Canal
Complete with European buildings, man-made canals, and gondoliers dressed in traditional Venetian clothing, the Chinese have outdone themselves with the Venice of the east.
China’s Florentia Village imitates an Italian town, and is actually an outlet mall with more than 200 shops, boasting classic Italian luxury brands including Gucci, Fendi, and Prada.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
5,000 miles away from the real deal, Shanghai’s freestanding bell tower is deliberately engineered to slant to mirror Bonanno Pisano’s 1372 architectural wonder.
Meanwhile, engineers in Italy are still working toward making their gravitationally-challenged landmark lean less.
Despite the extensive labor of engineers, Roberto Cela, engineer and technical director at the OPA, which looks after Pisa’s main monuments, predicted that the tower “will never be completely straight”, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
“It is a building that has been extensively studied for over 100 years but there are still so many things to know,” he said.
The U.S. Capitol
… as pictured in Beijing.
The U.S. Capitol sits alongside other replicas: the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, New York’s Statue of Liberty, and the Washington Monument.
Moai Statues of Easter Island
No Rapa Nui people were involved in the construction of these statues lining a pedestrian walkway in Beijing’s business district.
Moai statues were constructed to honor important people, such as chieftains, who had passed away.
The first European visitor to the island in 1722, Jacob Roggeveen, described native people praying to the idols: “These idols were all hewn out of stone, and in the form of a man… A clear space was reserved round these objects of worship by laying stones to a distance of twenty or thirty paces.”
The Roman Colosseum
This famous amphitheater was historically known for its public spectacles and gladiatorial contests, so it seems only fitting that China has built its twin in a theme park in Macau—a gambling hotspot.
The replica serves as an outdoor concert venue which seats 2,000 people.
The Sydney Opera House
One of the most recognizable structures in the world, the Australian performing arts centre paved the way for much of the complex geometries in modern architecture.
The Alpine Village of Hallstatt
Hallstatt, a centuries-old UNESCO world heritage site in Upper Austria, cost metals and mining company China Minmetals Corporation $940 million to build a replica of in China’s southern city of Huizhou, attracting not only tourists and property investors, but also angry backlash from Austrians who had been left completely in the dark about the project.
The “made in China” version of the village was eventually revealed to Austrians when a Chinese visitor to the heritage site let word of the Chinese constructions slip.
The controversy was eventually settled amicably, with the popularity of the cloned village boosting the numbers of Chinese tourists to Austria. Residents of Austria’s Hallstatt, a village of around 900, traveled to Guangdong to attend the opening ceremony.
China’s reverse engineering of the Kremlin can be found 18 miles (30 kilometers) outside of Beijing in the form of a government office complex, home to the Mentougou Weather Bureau.
The Kremlin has been home to the most powerful men in Russia since the days of the tsars.
The buildings bear extravagant, onion-shaped golden domes, white walls, and arched windows.
One notable break in the illusion is the absence of crosses on the domes, a likely result of the Chinese Communist Party’s atheist position and active persecution of religious groups.
China’s attitude towards mimicry is said to be rooted in history. Palaces belonging to rival kingdoms conquered by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, were replicated within his own capital city.
What are your thoughts; are China’s doppelgangers soulless and tacky, or the sincerest form of flattery?