Photos: Chinese village splurges on knockoff and superlative architecture
Huaxi Village, a formerly unknown and poor village in Jiangsu province on China’s east coast, skyrocketed into wealth since China’s economic reform in the late 1970s, and is constantly referred to as China’s most affluent village. It is said that each village has an average amount of $250,000 in the bank. However, much like children parade medals and trophies for more pats on the back, the nouveau riche village of a little over 2,000 residents is not resigned to obscurity and rolls out blueprints for ambitious and massive projects.
The village built a number of replicas of world-famous buildings and structures, including the Great Wall, the U.S. Capitol Hill, Sydney Opera House, and Triumphal Arch, to develop local tourism and “give the villagers a glimpse and taste of the beauty of China right at their doorstep.”
Then on October 8, the village unveiled a 328-meter skyscraper that belittles Paris’s Eiffel Tower (324m) and the Chrysler Building (319m) in New York. Built at the exorbitant cost of RMB 3 billion, or around US$450 million, with each household investing RMB 10 million for a stake, the 72-storied edifice will include a five-star hotel, residential apartments for villagers, and a sightseeing deck at the very top.
A mini Tiananmen Square
A mini huabiao, or ceremonial column.
Instead of “the Great Wall of Ten Thousand Li” (万里长城, Li equals half a kilometer), here in Huaxi Village, you can finish climbing “The Great Wall of Ten Thousand Meters” with ridiculous ease for a postprandial stroll.
An ersatz Capitol Hill with the audacity of declaring in red letters, “U.S. Capitol Hill.”
The Triumphal Arch
The schlock knockoff of Sidney Opera House
The new landmark of Huaxi towers into the sky over the rest of the village. The structure ranks as the world’s 15th tallest building as well as China’s biggest freestanding hotel. It is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the village. The larger-than-life figure, Wu Renbao, who spearheaded efforts to transform the village from a sleepy backwater, explained that the building, set at 328 meters in height, is level with the tallest building in Beijing. ”Huaxi village needs to correspond with the central government in height,” Wu said.
Faced with outside denunciation of the village’s sumptuous style and tacky taste, Wu Renbao begs to differ. “It embodies the urbanization process of Chinese villages,” and “enables city dwellers to spend money in rural regions.”
A staffer cleans an ox sculpture made of solid gold placed on the 60th floor of the hotel, literally outshining the bronze Charging Bull on NYC’s Wall Street. The new icon of the hotel cost RMB 300 million (US$46 million)to make, and because of the rising gold price, its value has already increased by 30 percent since its christening.
A helicopter corkscrewed up from the village’s airport. It is one of the two helicopters the 2000-people village spent 90 million (US$13.8 million) yuan on. The apron cost another 1o million yuan (US$1.5) to pave. The sightseeing helicopter tour called “A bird’s eye view of Huaxi” that the village heavily promotes have already given 3,600 rides.
Two residents of Huaxi Village take pictures with the five white marble statues of Communist leaders sitting on the village’s central square, with Mao at the center, Deng Xiaoping (the mastermind of China’s economic reform in the late 1970s) and Zhou Enlai (The first Chinese premier) to his right hand side, and Liu Shaoqi (Mao’s biggest political rival until he was wronged and persecuted to death by Mao) and Zhu De (Founder of Chinese Red Army) to Mao’s left.
The walls of the hotel lobby are gold-plated.
The restaurant can cater for 2,000 people.