Last week Foreign Policy posted an article, China’s Copycat Cities, written by Jack Carlson, on China’s recent re-creation of some of the West’s most iconic, historical attractions in its own backyard: Replicas of British towns complete with Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian buildings can now be found near Shanghai and Chengdu, in addition to at least two large-scale replicas of the Eiffel Tower and a highly accurate, full-scale White House outside Hangzhou, to name a few. Carlson mentions the reasons offered by European and American commentators for the presence of Bauhaus towns and a Sydney Opera House in China—the country’s “copycat syndrome,” “self-colonization”—but he also finds a fascinating parallel in Chinese history during the Qing with the Qianlong Emperor’s construction of the Western Palaces, which were closely based on the Trianon in Versailles. An excellent slide show accompanies the article.
UH Press’ forthcoming Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, by Bianca Bosker, is the first definitive chronicle of this remarkable phenomenon in which entire buildings and towns appear to have been airlifted from their historic and geographic foundations in Europe and the Americas and spot-welded to Chinese cities. The latest book in the series Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia’s Architecture, Original Copies will be available in January 2013.
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