Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tourism: A little bit of France in China

The Tiandu housing development incorporates many elements of 19th century France

Drive three hours west from Shanghai, and you will come to Tiandu City, in Eastern China. Tiandu City is a unique housing development whose architecture borrows from another time and another country. Sam Beattie has more.

This Chinese housing development is designed to look like 19th century France. To give it an air of authenticity it has a replica of the Palace of Versailles' famous fountains and even its own version of the Eiffel Tower.

The novelty of a French city in China is luring tourists from around the region who do not have the opportunity to travel to France.

One tourist, Zhang Jihong, explains, "I come here and it is like I have gone to France. The design of the architecture is from France. Although I have not been to France, I come here and it is like, 'Oh, I am in France.' "

A tourist attraction for some, while others call it "home."

Tiandu means "heavenly capital" in Mandarin. And Tiandu City is a housing development that advertises peaceful living. Construction started in 2000, and now nearly 1,000 families live here.

Resident Ma Huaqing says it is less expensive to live here than in a big city, plus it is much less congested. "Everyone is happy. The environment is good. If we have time we will walk in the park. Everything about it is good."

Ma says, in addition to improving the quality of her life, this is an investment with financial dividends. She says homes have more than tripled in value in the last five years and are now selling for about $900 per square meter.

Capitalizing on their success, the developers have even bigger plans for Tiandu City.

Wang Xufei says his company is investing $1 billion into the project to make it more than just a suburb. "The development of Tiandu City is not just a real estate project, it is more like a systematic approach towards building a city," he said.

Many apartments are still empty, but construction has already begun on the next phase of Tiandu City, blending Chinese and French architecture. The developers say they expect to attract 100,000 residents to their "heavenly capital" within the next 10 years.

By Sam Beattie Tiandu City, Eastern China
Published with the permission of
Voice of America