Photos Capture China's Copycat Architecture Phenomenon

By Nomvelo Chalumbira, July 5, 2019

0 0

China has a well-known history as a center of counterfeit culture. In recent years, the Chinese phenomena of copying has gone beyond consumer goods and progressed to large scale construction. 

London-based photographer Cian Oba-Smith’s recent photographic series, Shanzhai (the Chinese word for copycat) explores this marvel of Chinese copycat architecture also known as duplitecture (an intentional, functioning copy of a pre-existing, and often familiar, piece of architecture). 

WATCH: China’s Copy-Paste Architecture

Copying architectural styles is one thing, but where China really excels is creating exact replicas of buildings. Over the last 15 years, many settlements and communities have been built on the outskirts of cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou. The Eiffel Tower at high-end real estate development Tianducheng in Hangzhou is just one such example of an iconic building recreated by Chinese architects.

Shanzhai examines the duplitecture trend in the wider context of globalisation, which has inevitably resulted in cross-culture pollination. Although the duplicated towns were initially deemed a failure, with some becoming ‘ghost towns,’ it would seem that the Chinese construction industry went for function, rather than demand, on these housing projects. As such, more recently China’s urban middle class has expanded exponentially and the need for housing has increased with the population. 

Nowadays these settlements have seen an influx of Chinese residents moving in. In Oba-Smith’s images, a sense of their sterility and sparseness is preserved, with few people wandering the streets or enjoying activities outdoors. Oba-Smith’s work also brings China’s fondness for imitation to the forefront, and forces us to question the originality behind these settlements. 

You can see some of Oba-Smith’s snaps from the series Shanzhai below:

Image via

Image via

Image via

Image via

Image via

Image via

Image via

Image via

Image via

READ MORE: Huawei's Dongguan Campus Replicates 12 European Cities

For more photo essays, click here.

[Cover image via]

more news

This Day in History: Bloody Saturday, Shanghai's Darkest Day

New York Times bestselling author's new book on the 1937 Japanese bombing of the city.

Shanghai International Film Festival Postponed Due to COVID-19

The new dates for the 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival will be announced at a later time.

How Well Do You Know Your Old Shanghai Sojourners?

Six famous names who made a mark in Shanghai.

10 Chinese Movies You Should Watch at Least Once

Skip firing up the ol' VPN and step up your Chinese film repertoire.

Spotlight: Zhao Chenxi, Founder of Fabric Porn

His collections feature tongue-in-cheek pieces inspired by Chinese street culture, paired with Western silhouettes.

Beijing Ducks All-Star Jeremy Lin Announces His Departure

After a one-season stint in China, the talented baller is looking ahead to a new chapter: Returning stateside and playing in the NBA.

Star Wars' John Boyega Cut from Chinese Version of Jo Malone Ad

The actor was not given a headsup that the ad he directed and starred in would be recast despite being the global Jo Malone ambassador.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at thatsonline for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in China With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Magazines!

Visit the archives