China is famous for its “duplitecture,” but one recent example, a larger-than-life-sized replica of the Sphinx, outraged Egypt so much that it called on UNESCO to issue a cultural cease and desist. The structure will now be demolished.
The fake Sphinx was built in a cultural park in Shijiazhuang, in China’s northern Hebei province, and reportedly took only a couple of months to construct. It’s about 30 meters (98.5 feet) high and 80 meters (264 feet) long, and built out of steel-reinforced cement. A park spokesperson says the Sphinx was only built as a movie prop and was always intended to be temporary anyway.
Temporary or not, the fake Sphinx certainly drew a crowd, with street food vendors popping up around it to take advantage of the tourist trade. However, Egypt’s minister of antiquities, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the replica Sphinx contravened UNESCO’s 1972 Convention and is “a violation of Egypt’s rights to its cultural heritage and a bad imitation that disfigures the original.” Ouch! The park’s spokesperson counters that “We did not use it for commercial purposes and did not charge fees from visitors, nor do we intend to make it a tourist attraction,” but the park has agreed to dismantle the structure anyway and regrets the misunderstanding.
To add fuel to the discussion, The Star Online quotes intellectual property rights professor Feng Xiaoqing, of the China University of Political Science and Law, as saying, “It has not been confirmed that the cloned Sphinx resulted in direct economic loss to the original one.” He argues that it is impossible to confuse the two structures so any claims of an IP rights violation are baseless. And so the duplitecture debate continues.