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Sun to Shine Again on Old Summer Palace?
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A private company has come up with proposals to rebuild Beijing's famous Yuanmingyuan Park in Zhejiang Province.

The Hengdian Group, best known for managing a large film and television complex in the east China province, made the announcement yesterday.

Yuanmingyuan, the old Summer Palace, was a Qing Dynasty Imperial Park in the northwest of Beijing. Construction began in 1709 and continued for 150 years under five emperors. But it was burnt to the ground in 1860 by French and British troops.

Hengdian will rebuild Yuanmingyuan near Dongyang in the center of the province. A spokesman for the group surnamed Shi said it would be built to scale and cover an area of 350 hectares. Shi said the proposal had gained support from government as it would bring new impetus to the local economy and in particular the tourist industry.

The company will invest 20 billion yuan (US$2.47 billion) over five years. "The park will be located in a remote place in the countryside with hills, rivers and farmland which corresponds to the original environment of the real Yuanmingyuan," Shi said. "It'll be a multi-functional theme park."  

The developers says the park would serve as an educational base for patriotism. "If visitors compare the magnificent park with the ruins of the Yuanmingyuan in Beijing they'll keep in mind the sufferings of our nation in modern history," Shi said.

The park will also be used as a movie and television set. Hengdian already has a development with an imitation of the Forbidden City in Beijing, a Qin Dynasty (221-206BC) palace and a prosperous Song Dynasty (960-1279) downtown street. These attracted 3.2 million visitors last year.

However, this latest project has aroused controversy. Ruan Yisan, a history professor at Tongji University in Shanghai, said he couldn't see any point in rebuilding the Yuanmingyuan as it had been destroyed.

"The remaining ruins are a witness of history and serve as a good reminder of what happened," Ruan said. "Therefore any attempt to rebuild the garden will only be an awkward imitation. Moreover the real Yuanmingyuan was not built in just five or 10 years." Ruan suggested the group could use the money to preserve sites that are in urgent need of protection.

According to Xinhua News Agency, China has 2,500 theme parks with an investment of 150 billion yuan (US$18.5 billion) but only 10 percent of them make money.

(China Daily September 19, 2006)

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