We were impressed by the guts it took to knockoff an Apple Store, but this time the Chinese have definitely raised the bar on "recreating" originals. China has successfully cloned an entire village, recreating the scenic village of Hallstatt, Austria in a location of the same name about one hour outside of Huizhou in the Guangdong Province.
With astounding efficiency and $940 million, the Chinese Minmetals Corporation managed to recreate the village in just one year and is now open for visitors and residents. The original Hallstad in Austria is a centuries old UNESCO protected heritage site that only had its first road built in 1890.
The whole thing gives new meaning to "what's old is new again."
The Chinese development company reportedly dispatched a team to the original Hallstatt to take notes and pictures in order to faithfully recreate the town. What they did not do is ask permission if they could copy the village; and the while original Hallstatt residents had suspicions about the activities of some of their guests they apparently only learned about the full nature of the project from the loose lips of a Chinese hotel guest.
As one could imagine, members of the original town have mixed feelings about their cultural heritage being replicated on the other side of the world.
The big sticking point seems to be that the Chinese didn't ask permission of the Austrian village (population 900). The other is of respect for individuality. One resident, Karin Höll told Reuters: "Hallstatt is just unique with its culture and traditions. You cannot copy that. I saw a report and the photos, and the copy seems different. In my opinion it is unacceptable."
Both of those complaints seem fair enough.
It seems an uneasy peace has settled upon both of the villages of Hallstatt, with the mayor of the original Austrian village signing a cultural exchange agreement expressing "pride" felt by their town at the opening of the Chinese Hallstatt a few days ago.
Indeed, some of the residents of the original village might be proud, in the tradition of "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Others will likely grow used to the idea for more practical reasons.
As a small village hamlet that saw few visitors up to this point, they are hoping that the novelty will bring Chinese tourists over to have a good look at the original Hallstatt.