Tale of two Summer Palaces threatens to end up in court

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Managers of Beijing's Old Summer Palace said on Sunday that they may take legal action if a controversial replica in East China's Zhejiang province infringes on its intellectual property.

The storm surrounding the 400-hectare replica in Hengdian Township intensified earlier this week when the man in charge of its construction announced that it should be completed in 2016, with some sections open to the public from May.

In a written response sent to Xinhua, the Old Summer Palace's administrative office said the complex of pavilions and gardens built for Qing Dynasty emperors is "unique and cannot by replicated. The construction and development of the site should be planned by authoritative national organizations, and any replication of it should reach certain standards."

Hengdian is being developed into a giant film set and tourist attraction by a conglomerate - the Hengdian Group. It has already found great economic success building replicas of the Forbidden City and the Tian'anmen Gate Tower there.

The Old Summer Palace project, however, faced fierce criticism when it was announced in 2008, with many accusing it of bastardizing a site associated with patriotism. The palace is frequently referenced in patriotic education campaigns due to its historical ransacking by foreign powers.

The announcement of the May opening has triggered much criticism online. A Sina Weibo user with the screen name "you have the look I love best" wrote, "The garden is associated with humiliation. Why bother spending so much in replicating it?"

"Boteyang" posted, "I would prefer they spend [the money] to design a better one."

Others voiced support, however. "Wenwenwenwen" said on Sina Weibo, "I support it. I have been longing to see the original since I was a child."

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