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Parts of Old Summer Palace replica to be open in May amid controversy

(Global Times)    10:02, April 20, 2015

A replica of the Old Summer Palace, also known as Yuanmingyuan, constructed in Hengdian, Zhejiang province, will open partially from May 10. Built to the scale of the one in Beijing destroyed in 1860 by British and French forces; it features 95 percent of the original architecture.


Officials deny government funding in $4.8-billion project

Parts of a 30 billion yuan ($4.84 billion) replica of the Old Summer Palace will be open on May 10 at the Zhejiang-based Hengdian World Studios, dubbed as the "Chinese Hollywood," generating controversy.

The project, covering 413 hectares, began construction in 2008 in Hengdian township, Dongyang, Zhejiang Province, featuring 95 percent of the original palace's architecture, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Five times as large as the Forbidden City, the Old Summer Palace was covered with buildings and elegant gardens, which were destroyed twice by marauding foreign armies, in 1860 and 1900.

The Zhejiang-based replica will be divided into four sections: spring, summer, autumn and winter gardens. The spring garden will open on May 10. The others are expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

The project - which is expected to attract some 50 million people within five years, with annual ticket revenue of about 5 billion yuan - has led to wide discussions.

Lou Shouwei, head of Dongyang public department, previously told Xinhua that the local government has not used a single penny in the project, which was mainly financed by the studio with a small amount from donations.

The huge project was halted by the Ministry of Land and Resources in 2009 for breaking project approval process and land planning rules, the China News Service (CNS) reported.

"The approval procedures for planning and land use are consistent with the law and regulations," another anonymous Dongyang official told the Global Times Sunday.

Shi Weidong, studio spokesperson, said that formalities for the land use of the spring garden that occupies 173 hectares have been completed, insisting that they are applying for land use approval for other gardens under construction, which is expected to be obtained by the end of 2016, Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile, managers of the Old Summer Palace said on Sunday that they may take legal action if the replica infringes on its intellectual property.

In a written response to Xinhua, the palace's administrative office said the complex of pavilions and gardens is "unique and cannot by replicated. The construction and development of the site should be planned by authoritative national organizations, and any replication of it should reach certain standards."

Xu Wenrong, founder of the studio, denied that the replica is identical to the original palace, emphasizing that it would be "brand new," the CNS reported.

Liu Jiahui, a Beijing-based copyrights lawyer, said that the replica will not breach the copyrights of the Old Summer Palace's designers as the copyrights protect them for only 50 years after their death.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Gao Yinan,Yao Chun)

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