It was Oscar Wilde who said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so with this in mind, such gestures of flattery don’t come much bigger than the huge double-sized replica of London’s Tower Bridge. Built over Yuanhe Pond in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, the structure measures in at an impressive 131ft tall, has four turrets instead of two and cost 80 million yuan (£9.4 million) to build. The towers, complete with elevators, are connected by two suspended walkways which are open to the public and unlike the original (built in 1886) the bridge isn’t cantilevered to allow tall boats to pass underneath, however it does have a dual carriageway going across it to serve the areas vast flow of traffic.
The copycat bridge was actually built in 2012, but has attracted a lot of attention this month with the release of new photographs. Public opinion about the structure has been divided with some declaring it to be more magnificent than the original design; whilst others have not been so impressed, believing the city should be celebrating its own architectural heritage instead. Whatever the viewpoint, the bridge has proved to be tourism gold and a massive hit as a backdrop for wedding photography.
Tower Bridge isn’t the only iconic structure to be copied, far from it. One of Australia’s most iconic pieces of architecture, the Sydney Harbour Bridge (which leads to a replica of the Sydney Opera house) can be found in Beijing.
And despite having it’s own 900 year old leaning tower on a hillside just 25 miles outside of Shanghai, the city has built it’s own 1:4 scale replica of Italy’s leaning Tower Of Pisa.
Shanghai’s original leaning tower, called the Huzhu pagoda, was built in 1079, well before Italy’s famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Interestingly a recent measurement has shown that the pagoda actually surpasses the Tower of Pisa, as it leans at and angle of 7.10 degrees, which is one degree more than the famous Italian tower.
Staying with the Italian theme, perhaps one of China’s most impressive recreations is Florentia Village, a faux 16th century Italian town built over a sprawling 14-acre complex which boasts its own Colosseum and Grand Canal with gondolas that glide under a Rialto bridge.
The village’s purpose is not just to transport it’s visitors to a 16th century town from the Italian renaissance; it’s actually a designer outlet shopping mall. The village has over 200 luxury Italian brands (such as Fendi, Armani, Prada and Gucci) alongside British, Chinese and American labels. The popularity of Florentia Village has been phenomenal, thanks to the irresistible discounted prices, and it also gets the thumbs up as a replica thanks to being built by an Italian developer.
And now to Paris….or rather Tianducheng, where you’ll find a 354ft replica of The Eiffel Tower rising above a gated community.
Other must see attractions from Paris includes a 10 meter high Arc de Triomphe in Jiangyan, and an impressive life sized version of The Louvre. The copy of the world famous Parisian pyramid museum was designed by the internationally acclaimed Chinese American architect I.M.Pei, and is located in a theme park in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province.
Other impressive replicas include a model of Athens’ Parthenon which has been built in a theme park in Lanzhou, Gansu Province.
Want to see The Colosseum but can’t afford to go to Rome? No problem, because there’s a replica at Fisherman’s Wharf in Macau. This ‘Roman’ Amphitheatre is equipped with 2,000 seats and has been designed as a venue for concerts and other performances.
The list is really quite extensive, Beijing has its own White House, a building bearing a striking resemblance to the Kremlin and imitations of the Moai statues on Easter Island. There’s a replica of Egypt’s Karnak Temple in Wuhan and in Huizhou, perhaps saving the best until last here, you can find a full-scale copy of Hallstatt, a centuries old town from the Austrian Alps.
Chinese planners and architects made blueprints of the entire area of Hallstatt, and for the first time in known history recreated an exact replica of a town in a different country. Today the town is a huge hit with tourists and like the Tower Bridge (mark 2) a mecca for wedding photographers.
The culture of copying in China is viewed very differently to that in the West where originality is praised above imitation. In China however copying is seen as a sign of deep respect and therefore encouraged. Whatever the viewpoint, the mastery of these copycat iconic structures are a statement of craftsmenship, and for those who can’t afford to go abroad and travel the world, importing famous foreign landmarks to China is the next best thing.