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Is ‘Reasonable’ An Appropriate Description for Replicas?

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For all  its wonderful and rich history, China is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and fruitful countries to turn to if you want to understand and immerse yourself in an amazing culture. Beyond the obvious major landmarks and attractions like the Great Wall of China, Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an or even geographical wonders like the Yangtze River (notable for being the third longest river in the world and the longest river to flow entirely within one country), China is also a place where other cultures are represented in major landmarks and tourist attractions. Perhaps the mentality is if the UK, France or Italy is brought to you with a real sense of European flavour, is there ever really a need to leave the wonderful Middle Kingdom anyway?
It can be seen right here in Tianjin. If you want a little taste of London, just look towards the iconic Tianjin Eye. Modelled on the famous London attraction, namely London Eye, it is very easy to compare these Ferris Wheels to one another, making residents and expats alike wonder if there is a need to travel so far when cultures are brought to you right here in one country.
Quality of construction and attention to detail when Chinese cities recreate world famous landmarks is hard to criticise. Landmark replicas are often pristine looking and can often confuse curious travellers to the extent that it can be questioned whether they really are in China any more. One such place that is accessible to Tianjiners which evokes this exact feeling is Florentia Village, located in WuQing District. Whether it is canals, bridges and gondolas which remind strollers of Venice or the terracotta coloured building facades which are reminiscent of Florentine architecture, residents of the city don’t need to go far for a taste of Italia (with the added plus of being able to shop to their heart’s content). 
For those who want a literal taste of Italy, the Italian Style Street located at the heart of Tianjin offers a range of restaurants offering authentic Italian cuisine. Punctuated with little stalls selling Venetian masks and other European souvenirs replicating European countries, this street serves as a welcome relief to the traditional culture seen throughout the city.  
Considering Tianjin’s status as a port city and its significance in Chinese history and culture, it is not a surprise that remnants of European culture still exist in the city’s structure to remind residents and visitors of Tianjin’s unique character. But the craze to replicate other cultures is not confined to this city alone. 
Replicating landmark structures and representing other cultures in China has a strong power to divide popular opinion. Elsewhere, entire cities dedicated to replicating European culture remain as ghost towns. One such example is Tianducheng in the suburbs of Hangzhou. Complete with a 108-metre tall replica of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, along with Parisian style architecture and landscaping, the city was originally built in 2007 and had the capacity to house 10,000 residents. Yet Tianducheng remains uninhabited – left as a shell of a space with an eerie feel not welcomed by any one. Is the Chinese obsession to create replicas really because there’s a demand and interest in it or is it all a fallacy? 
When such structures and developments cost the government millions, are they a worthwhile investment or a superficial waste of space and money? Perhaps, but in today’s culture where smartphones and selfie-clicking is such a huge part of everyday life, these spaces generate great interest not just among residents of the Middle Kingdom who are likely to travel to these attractions for the photo, but also among those who belong to those borrowed cultures and need to really see the replicas to believe them. In any case, these wonders of China remain a great talking point across the globe and lucky for some, Tianjin is home to a fair few of these attractions if you’re willing to keep your eyes peeled to find them. 


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