A luxury real estate developer in Hangzhou thought it could cash in on China's love for all things French. It hasn't worked out that way.

As absurd as it looks, it likely comes at no surprise: there's an Eiffel Tower in the middle of China. Tianducheng, a Parisian fantasy in the form of a luxury real estate development in Hangzhou, China, has been gradually built out since 2007. 

Tianducheng from caspar stracke on Vimeo.

Despite China's well-documented love for all things French, the ambitious development hasn't translated into success for the developers hoping to cash in on China's aspirational European tastes. Surrounded by a confusing mix of farmland and wide, abruptly ending roads, Tianducheng is now considered by local media to be a ghost town, its population well short of the 10,000 it can support.

Earlier this year, Henry Grabar wrote about China's architectural copycat culture, citing some of the unique details of what it's like to actually walk around Tianducheng in particular:

Tianducheng, a miniature Paris near Hangzhou, has an Eiffel Tower over 300 feet high, and a replica of a fountain from the Luxemburg Gardens in a main square called "Champs Elysées." But it also has "a driver in a top hat and tails [who] drives a horse and buggy to a yellow church at the top of a hill, where a Chinese 'priest' in black robes and white clerical collar stages Western wedding ceremonies at an altar hung with a cross."

Below, Reuters photographer Aly Song gives us a glimpse of the average day around the faux-Parisian development, a place where China's aspirations and traditions awkwardly collide:

A man rides a motorcycle past a replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Tianducheng development in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
A farmer walks through a field near a replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Tianducheng development August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
A view of the Tianducheng development in Hangzhou August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
A man rides his motorcycle past a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Hangzhou August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
A resident stands on the balcony of his apartment at the Tianducheng development August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
People walk past a fountain at the Tianducheng development August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song)
A woman walks past a supermarket at the Tianducheng development in Hangzhou August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song) 
A farmer tills the field under the Eiffel Tower replica at the Tianducheng development in Hangzhou August 1, 2013. 

(REUTERS/Aly Song) 

A farmer's house is seen near the Eiffel Tower replica in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song) 
A man sits under a tree at the Tianducheng development August 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    The Automotive Liberation of Paris

    The city has waged a remarkably successful effort to get cars off its streets and reclaim walkable space. But it didn’t happen overnight.

  2. A tow truck operator hooks up a damaged bus in 2011 in New York.
    POV

    Should Transit Agencies Panic?

    Many predict that new technology will doom public transportation. They’re wrong.  

  3. An aisle in a grocery store
    Equity

    It's Not the Food Deserts: It's the Inequality

    A new study suggests that America’s great nutritional divide goes deeper than the problem of food access within cities.

  4. A small accessory dwelling unit—known as an ADU—is attached to an older single-family home in a Portland, Oregon, neighborhood.
    Design

    The Granny Flats Are Coming

    A new book argues that the U.S. is about to see more accessory dwelling units and guides homeowners on how to design and build them.

  5. 1970s apartment complex in downtown Buffalo
    Equity

    The Last Man Standing in a Doomed Buffalo Housing Complex

    After a long fight between tenants and management, John Schmidt is waiting for U.S. Marshals to drag him out of Shoreline apartments, a Brutalist project designed by Paul Rudolph.