Paris, China

Tianducheng is a small development just outside of Hangzhou that’s made to look like an intimate, iconic slice of Paris.

Paris, China

It’s one of China’s so-called counterfeit cities, designed to house and entertain the country’s wealthiest citizens.

Paris, China

Construction of Tianducheng began in 2007, as China’s real estate market was on a non-stop ascent.

Paris, China

The new town consists of Parisian tenement blocks, bâtiments, that straddle a wide boulevard.

Paris, China

On one end stands a 1:3 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, which is re-created here with great accuracy.

Paris, China

A grand plaza is funnily dubbed the Champs-Élysées, having not much in common with the famously chic Parisian traffic artery.

Paris, China

Standing in the middle of the avenue, as workers replace tiles.

Paris, China

The buildings are filled with spacious apartments that, for the most part, sit empty.

Paris, China

The structures are based on photographs of the originals back in France--and tend to become most useful as backdrops for photographs in China.

Paris, China

Tianducheng was designed for 10,000 residents…

Paris, China

…though it’s now a partial ghost town, with a population of just 2,000.

Paris, China

A monumental fountain, based on one found at Versailles, lies at the foot of the town’s main strip.

Paris, China

A farmer’s hut located just outside the town.

Paris, China

This faux Paris, it’s safe to say, has had all its lights snuffed out.

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See What Paris Looks Like As A Dark, Empty, Chinese City

A small community outside of Hangzhou re-creates the City of Lights—only without the lights and the people.

Only in China can you find pieces of Athens, Amsterdam, New York, London, Venice, and Washington, DC, all within the same national border. The country is littered with the romantic monuments and historic urban centers of world cities, re-created with great accuracy, if not craftsmanship. Thames Town outside of Shanghai conjures interwar Britain, with its array of (mock-) mock-Tudor houses, brick civic centers, and a neo-Gothic church. In Chongqing, a relatively crude copy of the Chrysler Building crowns the central business district.

And then there’s Tianducheng, a new town just outside of Hangzhou that’s prone to fog and grey skies. Ah, Paris! Through the haze you can see mansard roofs, Haussmannian boulevards, and the Champs-Élysées—though rendered as a large square. It all culminates, bien sur, in a 108-meter replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Paris in spring in China was a triumph for developers when completed. But new photos depict the duplicate city to be empty and conspicuously lacking the proverbial lights. Reuters photographer Aly Song recently visited the area and returned with images of the ghost town.

Tianducheng, one of several counterfeit cities built in China’s real estate boom of the past decade, was designed to accommodate a population of 10,000, who were imagined to fill its bâtiments and tree-lined avenues. Instead, like many of the themed towns, residents—namely, the elite and nouveau riche—failed to arrive and complete the vision. Only 2,000 people now call the closed community home.

Like Thames Town and Hallstatt, a wholesale clone of the fairy-tale Austrian hamlet, Tianducheng functions mostly a backdrop for picture taking. Newlyweds pose in front of the Eiffel Tower. It’s the closest you can get to Paris without applying for a visa.

See more about China’s copycat architecture here and here.

Photos: Reuters/Aly Song

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  • Alan

    That's because the Chinese elite would way rather leave and move to the real Paris than a cheap imitation 

  • Paul van den Bergh

    First thing I thought was: "damn, those are some crappy photoshops". Oops.

  • cassette_walkman

    Are these comments for real? Have you never seen/been to Vegas? Disneyland?

  • mikegre

    They can't. Mao killed all the bright ones. All the ones that are left can do are steal ideas and copy.

  • ToddHuge

    Very creepy.  Like some post-apocalyptic photo journal of Paris.  Even the Chinese aren't convinced by their "counterfeit" virtues.