China has pulled off a feat that no other country would even dream of achieving: a cloned village. Every detail of the original Hallstatt village, a UNESCO protected heritage gem in Austria, has been copied in a replica situated one hour outside of Huizhou in Guangdong Province. China Minmetals Corporation announced their $940 million plan to re-create the secluded hamlet in June, 2011, and now, just one year later, the place is open to visitors.
When we first learned of the project last year, Hallstatt’s mayor Alexander Scheutz expressed concern that the Chinese would copy everything – even a holy house. He has since changed his stance, perhaps because Chinese tourists are now flocking to the village in the thousands compared to just 50 visitors in 2005. Formerly accessible only by boat and treacherous alpine trails, the first road to the village was only built in 1890, but now Hallstatt, Austria and China are known to the world.
Although the Chinese are enjoying the spectacle (one Huizhou resident told Reuters that the village feels like Europe), not everyone agrees that cloning villages is appropriate. “I dont think that it is a good idea,” Hallstatt 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.”