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Original Copies

Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China

Bianca Bosker

Publication Year: 2013

A 108-meter high Eiffel Tower rises above Champs Elysées Square in Hangzhou. A Chengdu residential complex for 200,000 recreates Dorchester, England. An ersatz Queen’s Guard patrols Shanghai’s Thames Town, where pubs and statues of Winston Churchill abound. Gleaming replicas of the White House dot Chinese cities from Fuyang to Shenzhen. These examples are but a sampling of China’s most popular and startling architectural movement: the construction of monumental themed communities that replicate towns and cities in the West.

Original Copies presents the first definitive chronicle of this remarkable phenomenon in which entire townships appear to have been airlifted from their historic and geographic foundations in Europe and the Americas, and spot-welded to Chinese cities. These copycat constructions are not theme parks but thriving communities where Chinese families raise children, cook dinners, and simulate the experiences of a pseudo-Orange County or Oxford.

In recounting the untold and evolving story of China’s predilection for replicating the greatest architectural hits of the West, Bianca Bosker explores what this unprecedented experiment in “duplitecture” implies for the social, political, architectural, and commercial landscape of contemporary China. With her lively, authoritative narrative, the author shows us how, in subtle but important ways, these homes and public spaces shape the behavior of their residents, as they reflect the achievements, dreams, and anxieties of those who inhabit them, as well as those of their developers and designers.

From Chinese philosophical perspectives on copying to twenty-first century market forces, Bosker details the factors giving rise to China’s new breed of building. Her analysis draws on insights from the world’s leading architects, critics and city planners, and on interviews with the residents of these developments.

69 illus., 54 in color

For sale in East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand by Hong Kong University Press

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page, Contents

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pp. i-vi

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pp. vii-x

Whatever one may have read about or expects to see in a visit to today’s Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Chongqing, Chengdu, or half a dozen other Chinese metropolitan centers, the traveler there is likely to be dazzled by the pace of urban development, by the lightning-like speed of Westernization, by China’s sudden surpassing of the cities of Europe and North America at their own “game.” ...

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pp. xi-xii

Those who claim writing is a solitary craft are stretching the truth. This book would not have been possible without the help of many individuals, to whom I am indebted for sharing their time, energy, advice, and expertise. ...

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1. Into “the Land of Courtly Enjoyments”: An Introduction to China’s Architectural Mimicry

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pp. 1-19

Within an astonishingly compressed term of two decades, China has catapulted its architectural universe years into a future in which the laws of physics no longer seem to hold: skyscrapers fold in half, buildings hover over water, and steel twists like silly putty. Architects have been breaking world records constructing mega-metropolises with the “greenest,” biggest, fastest-built, tallest, ...

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2. The Fascination with Faux: Philosophical and Theoretical Drivers of Architectural Reproduction in China

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pp. 20-36

The “authentic” and the “fake” are categories that face off against each other in philosophically and culturally complex ways. Their definitions and distinctions vacillate, depending on the vantage point from which they are considered: idealist or empirical, psychological or anthropological, esthetic or ethical. ...

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3. Manifestations of Westernization: The Anatomy of China’s Simulacrascapes

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pp. 37-66

The above inscription was written on a banner hung outside the sales office of Dreams Come True Realty in Thames Town. Inside, a real estate agent, Song Yucai, used a laser pointer and a small model of the British-themed housing development to take prospective buyers on a virtual tour of the town. She recited a rehearsed sales pitch. ...

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4. Simulacra and the Sino-Psyche: Understanding the Chinese Motivation for Replicating the Alien

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pp. 67-92

At no time during the roughly three millennia of its history has China had as many stylistic options for its residential architecture as in the thirty years since the shift from a command economy toward the open market. Yet in the remarkable building boom that has deposited broad swaths of suburbs around Chongqing, Chengdu, Changsha, and other cities, ...

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5. Residential Revolution: Inside the Twenty-first Century Chinese Dream

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pp. 93-117

In the over three decades since the beginning of China’s “Opening and Reform,” the Chinese government has instituted a series of policy changes that set into motion a residential revolution that is shaping the face of the “New China.” The scope of centralized planning has been judiciously reduced. ...

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Conclusion: From Imitation to Innovation?

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pp. 118-132

From the perspective of the future, will the simulacra communities of the last two decades prove to be just another expensive, expansive instance of “learning how the Handan residents walk”? Or will they take root and become part of China’s residential landscape? ...


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pp. 133-146


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pp. 147-154


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pp. 155-162

E-ISBN-13: 9780824837839
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824836061

Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 856976882
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Original Copies

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Subject Headings

  • Architecture -- China -- Themes, motives.
  • Architecture -- China -- Western influences.
  • Architecture -- China -- History -- 20th century.
  • Architecture -- China -- History -- 21st century.
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