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Debate over Imperial Garden replica escalates
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In defense of the project's historic authenticity, Xu said they had prepared for as long as 10 years to make their replica reflect the history.

"We have consulted historians and collected data from the State Archives Administration and the Yuanmingyuan site."

Intellectual property was another issue. Zong warned any violation of the registered trademark "Old Summer Palace" would face a lawsuit.

Xu, however, attempted to justify the replica by saying the garden would be named "Hengdian New Yuanmingyuan Garden", a trademark that had been registered.

He hoped the controversy aroused by the project would draw as much public attention as possible and thus give a strong push to the protection and research of Yuanmingyuan .

The replica construction plan, however, has met with fierce public criticism ever since it was announced. Many netizens voiced their opposition to the replica, accusing the company of mixing patriotism with show business.

"The replica is unnecessary because the Yuanmingyuan was destroyed by the Allied Forces and the present-day ruins serves as a testimony to that period of humiliating history," said Ruan Yisan, director of the State Institute of Famous Historical and Cultural Cities with the Shanghai-based Tongji University.

The Imperial Garden was overrun in 1860 by British and French troops who burned and pillaged many of the hundreds of traditional Chinese and Western-inspired pavilions, fountains and gardens reserved for the emperor and his guests.

The garden was looted and burned again after partial restoration in 1900 when the Eight-Power Allied Forces sent by Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Tsarist Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria occupied Beijing.

The war-battered palace located in northwest Beijing has long been regarded as one of the most humiliating chapters in Chinese history and often used in patriotic education.

The reconstruction project started fund-raising efforts 10 days ago when its advocator announced their work has been encountered with "the great interest and enthusiasm of the public".

(Xinhua News Agency February 29, 2008)

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