Wednesday, November 08, 2006



All across China, replica English villages are popping up on the outskirts of major cities. British Town, Thames Town, it's a remarkable housing phenomenon, and is proving extremely popular with the cashed-up Chinese middle class.

Reproducing English villages and architecture in China is not necessarily a new thing, however. When I was living in Somerset in the late 1990s, a local village church was bought by a Chinese developer, who then dismantled the church brick by brick and sent it back to China, where it was rebuilt for English-themed weddings and baptisms.

From :

An hour's drive from Shanghai's skyscrapers in the suburb of Songjiang lies Thames Town, complete with pub, fish-and-chip shop and even a bronze statue of Winston Churchill.

"I wanted the properties to look exactly the same as those in the United Kingdom," James Ho, the director of privately owned Shanghai Henghe Real Estate Co. Ltd., one of the town's five developers.

"I think English properties are very special. When we decide to learn from others, we should not make any improvements or changes. I emphasised this policy to my staff," he told Reuters.

The development, which cost about 5 billion yuan (334 million pounds), is expected to house 10,000 people.

Yet that copycat feeling has irked some people, not least Gail Caddy from Lyme Regis in Dorset, southwest England.

She said her pub and fish-and-chip shop have been replicated in Thames Town. Her establishments, the Rock Point Inn and Cob Gate Fish Bar, have both been reproduced almost exactly, though Caddy's fish-and-chip shop is spelt "Cobb".

"I feel cheated considering that they have copied the whole unique experience of my two businesses here," she said.

Almost all the houses have been sold for prices starting at three million yuan (about 200,000 pounds). Most buyers are from Shanghai.

British architecture is not the only inspiration for town planners in China. An Italian and German town are also planned.

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