The culture that is China (Austria)


June 20, 2011

Residents of the Austrian mountain town of Hallstatt, population 800, are scandalized. A Chinese firm has plans to replicate the village — including its famous lake — in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, Austrian media reported this week.

The Chinese have been “spying” on the town for some time.  Here is more:

But creating an exact duplicate of a city may not be legal, according to Hans-Jörg Kaiser from Icomos Austria, the national board for monument preservation under UNESCO. “The legal situation still needs to be examined,” he said. Building new structures based on photographs is legal, he explained, but owners must give their permission for them to be measured.

This isn’t the first time a Chinese firm has used a European place as inspiration. The Chinese city of Anting, some 30 kilometers from Shanghai, created a district designed to accommodate 20,000 residents called “German Town Anting.” Modelled after a typical mid-size German city by architecture firm Albert Speer & Partner, it includes Bauhaus style architecture and a fountain with statues of Goethe and Schiller.

In 2005 Chengdu British Town was modelled on the English town of Dorchester. One year later Thames Town was finished near Shanghai, complete with a 66-meter tall church that bears a striking resemblance to a cathedral in Bristol. Also near Shanghai are mini versions of Barcelona, Venice and the Scandinavian-inspired Nordic Town. The architectural plagiarisms are popular destinations among middle-class Chinese, even serving as backdrops for wedding photos.

There are good photos at the link (excellent slideshow), and you will see that the town is eminently copyable.  It’s funny how a town gets insulted when outsiders start taking its kitsch seriously at proper kitsch.