You’ve all heard of the Chinese painters who get paid to make exact copies of the masterpieces of Western art. Well now China is going after entire towns rather than paintings. Architects in Guangdong are planning to make a replica of a scenic Austrian village, as nordic as can be, set right in their home province, reports German newspaper Der Spiegel.
Hallstatt, a tiny town in central Austria that is also a UNESCO heritage landmark, caught the architects’ attention for its picturesque Nordic homes and immaculate lakeside setting. Perfect for Chinese tourists! And why fly out of the country when you could just visit the same village in Southern China?
The people of Hallstat are split in their reactions to the plan, which was developed in secret. Hans-Jörg Kaiser of Icomos Austria, the national board for monument preservation under UNESCO, said the copycat town might be illegal:
The legal situation still needs to be examined. Building new structures based on photographs is legal, he explained, but owners must give their permission for them to be measured.
Others think a replica Hallstat in China might be good for the town: Hallstat Mayor Scheutz said that he thinks “it could be a tourism motor.” It remains to be seen if the tiny town could even handle an avalanche of Chinese tourists. The Chinese idea of authenticity is markedly different from our own, but it’s hard to see the faked Hallstat as anything other than an amusement park feature akin to the Beijing World Park.
Be careful of suspicious-looking Chinese architects poking around the streets! Your town could be next!
- For more on Chinese tourism abroad, see Evan Osnos‘ excellent New Yorker piece about traveling around Europe with a group of Chinese tourists.