A replica of Notre-Dame in Shenzhen, with an Eiffel Tower in the background. Photo: Weibo

If, like many around the world, you were saddened that the 856-year-old Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris had been partially gutted by a fire, the good news is that you can find an exact replica in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

There is a theme park there called Window of the World, where the majestic Gothic cathedral is near the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Louvre Pyramid.

Indeed, the 480,000-square-meter attraction also brings together London’s Tower Bridge, Athens’ Parthenon, Rome’s Colosseum, Moscow’s Kremlin, Egypt’s Great Sphinx of Giza, the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge and Sydney Opera House, to name just a few.

China has become the place where you can see many of the prominent landmarks from across the globe, with reproductions of them all in one form or another.

The Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe at Shenzhen’s Window of the World theme park. Photo: Weibo
A minuscule replica of Manhattan’s skyline. Photo: Weibo

Take Huaxi, a village in the eastern province of Jiangsu, for instance.

It is touted as China’s most well-off village and has a cluster of duplicate global landmarks, albeit at one-tenth the original size. A trip to the community offers a look at Hong Kong’s Bank of China Tower and London’s Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, plus a pseudo-Space Shuttle Columbia, all squeezed into a 10-hectare court.

These replicas were originally used as government offices, but they were soon derided as too extravagant in media exposés. So local cadres decided to open the attraction originally intended for their own enjoyment to the general public. The park has been reeling in villagers, especially in previous years when owning a passport and traveling abroad were considered a luxury.

In 2014, Egypt fired off a complaint to the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over a true-to-life replica of the Sphinx in an amusement park in Hebei province.

A Capitol-like court building in Zhejiang province. Photo: Weibo

Piggybacking on global landmarks is particularly popular among local cadres when they pick the design of their new office compounds, and more often than not the US Capitol is one of the most popular sources of architectural inspiration.

Capitol-like edifices can be found at the Shanghai Minhang district court, the Chongqing municipal intermediate court, the Nanjing Yuhua district government, the Xiamen Tong’an district government, the Hunan Loudi municipal government and the Jiangxi Jiujiang municipal intermediate court, etc.

The fake Eiffel Tower in a suburb in Hangzhou. Photo: MNXANL/WikiMedia
Parisian-style buildings with a Chinese touch. Photo: Weibo

Chinese realty firms also like to take a page out of the design and cityscape of Western metropolises when developing new projects, though it appears they can barely ape the artisanal craftsmanship and aesthetics of the originals.

At a 3,000-hectare new town development in Hangzhou called Tiandu City (Capital of Heaven), realty developer Guangsha recreated all of Paris’ major attractions in miniature, including the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre Museum, the Champ de Mars and other Parisian-style architecture.

There is even a shopping mall mimicking the famed Galeries Lafayette department store, though it is now being used as a barbecue food court with its stained glass dome sooted by smoke.

And in the center of the new town is – what else – the Eiffel Tower, though devoid of the grandeur of the original structure by the Seine in Paris. Rust dots the replica’s puddled iron frame and cupola, against a bleak backdrop of an empty ghost town and derelict rice paddies.

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