Photographers' Blog

An Austrian clone, made in China

June 8, 2012

By Tyrone Siu

An elegant black swan sliding silently on the lake, cutting into the reflection of European style wooden houses and church clock tower in the water – the rare image radiated a moment of peacefulness in my mind until it was disrupted by a loud thundering sound of a truck passing by. It was not until then that I paid a closer look to the bird and found it to be a dark duck – another small replica, as part of a massive copycat project from China.

The $940-million-dollar project, conceived by a Chinese mining tycoon, is to clone Austria’s most picturesque village, Hallstatt. Even though it’s in the largest replica-industry county in the world, it still keeps people wondering how such an extensive scale of copying can be done, and whether it is even possible for the SIM city to be materialized into a dream village. I soon find out my answer.

SLIDESHOW: CHINA COPIES AN AUSTRIAN VILLAGE

Like the black duck I saw, other parts of the village gave me a similar kind of awkwardness. The structures and facilities look almost the same as the Austrian village I saw in photographs, but the spirit and taste of the complex is so typically Chinese. The supposedly peaceful atmosphere with relaxing background music is spoiled by the frequent shuttling of trucks carrying materials, bringing up dust and releasing the smell of gas. Rubbish and bags can be seen piling along the artificial lake, while the village is surrounded by construction work. You can occasionally see Chinese builders carrying bamboo sticks and wooden ladders across the little European town that would only be used by the East. The images are hilarious.

The clash created a series of interesting visual elements that could explain a bigger global trend of culture change – when East meets West.

From fake Louis Vuitton bags and fake eggs, to Chinese-made iPhone lookalikes, one could consider the loss of originality to be an important part of the Rising Dragon’s foundation. One may also wonder how much of this country is not forged.

Upon my departure, it was hard not to notice the extensive advertising of the cloned Hallstatt village. Leaflets hanging from street lamps describe it as “A Postcard delivered from the Heaven.” Flipping over it, I found three little familiar Chinese characters – “Made In China.”

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