Pirated Places: How China Copies Cities

by  Jethro Kang | Jul 9, 2012

China is notorious for pirating movies, watches, and handbags. Recently, however, a Chinese village took imitation to the next level by copying an Austrian town in its entirety, right down to its street signs. Incredibly, “pirated” places in China are not all that new. From Austria to Australia, here are some examples of China replicating famous landmarks from around the world.

Original: Hallstatt Village, Austria
Chinese Copy: Huizhou

Hallstatt is a former salt mining town turned UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its pristine alpine landscape, epitomized by the surrounding Dachstein Mountains. The town’s long history is also a huge draw for visitors who flock here to experience the world’s oldest salt mine, or view the 1,200 flower- painted human skulls at gothic St. Michael’s Chapel. No one, however, is more enamored with Hallstatt is than the residents of the Chinese town of Huizhou. A city in the southern Guangdong province, Huizhou’s latest urban plans involved cloning the Austrian village right down to its smallest detail, from Hallstatt’s pastel colors, to copies of its angel sculptures.

Original: Lyme Regis, England
Chinese Copy: Thames Town, Songjiang

Situated along the coast of West Dorset, Lyme Regis sees many visitors flocking to its historic town, clean beaches, and famous harbor. But the main highlight is its Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site containing dinosaur fossils and geological remnants from the Mesozoic Era. Just as glamorous is The Cobb, Lyme Regis’s harbor, which was featured in the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, shown in the Merryl Streep film The French Lieutenant's Woman, and had its fish and chip shop copied by the Chinese town of Songjiang. That’s right, the Shanghainese city recreated England in the uniquely Chinese way: by copying it wholesale. Nicknamed “Thames Town,” rows of Victorian terraces now line Songjiang’s cobbled streets, complete with a gothic church, bronze statues of British personalities like Winston Churchill, and security personnel dressed in the red uniforms of the Queen’s Guards. And the original Cobb fish and chip shop? Now rebranded “The Cob” by Songjiang.

Original: Sigtuna, Sweden
Chinese Copy: Luodian North Europe New Town, Luodian

Sigtuna is Sweden’s oldest town, and nowhere is this more evident than from the ancient churches, rune stones, and imposing castles that make up this community. Founded in 980 AD along the shores of Lake Mälaren, the town’s medieval structures are framed by its picturesque harbor, a sight that draws thousands of travelers to the village each year. This landscape proved so popular that the Shanghainese town of Luodian recreated Sigtuna in their city by employing Swedish architects. As a result, brick-red buildings with soaring spires now dominate Luodian’s skyline, topped off with Nordic touches like wrought iron mailboxes with horse-head designs. To hammer home the fact that this is Sweden, the developers even dug an artificial lake, recreating Sigtuna’s Lake Mälaren while giving it a Chinese name (Meilian Lake). But that was enough to convince the European PGA organizers to hold a leg of the tour at the golf course bordering the lake this year.

Original: Virtually everywhere
Chinese Copy: Huaxi village

To see four countries in one, take a trip to Huaxi Village, located east of the city of Jiangyin, in the Jiangsu province. Self-titled “the richest village in China,” residents of this town are all shareholders in the village’s business arm, which entitles each of them to a new luxury car, a house, free healthcare and education, and cooking oil. While they have to work seven days a week for this privilege, the “World Park” at Huaxi Village keeps them entertained, with replicas of China’s Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall, the Arc de Triomphe of Paris, the Sydney Opera House, and Washington, D.C.’s’s Capitol Building (with the Statue of Liberty perched on its dome). Huaxi Village also recently constructed a 74-story tower called the Longxi International Hotel, decked out with a revolving restaurant, a rooftop swimming pool and an ox made from a ton of gold.

See our China, Austria, England, and Sweden destination guides for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights.

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