Henan's Kaifeng city plans to splurge billions to build replica ancient town for tourists
Historical city may spend 98 billion yuan to clear slums, create replica Song dynasty town for tourists
A historical city in Henan province is planning to spend the equivalent of 20 times its 2011 fiscal revenue to demolish slums and build a replica ancient town that it hopes will be a tourist hot spot, local media say.
Kaifeng , one of China's ancient capital cities which served as the seat of power on seven occasions, will spend 100 billion yuan (HK$122 billion) over the next four years to relocate about 80,000 households - one-third of the population in its old district, the
China Business Journal reported on Saturday.
The sprawling 20 sq km tourist attraction will be built in the architectural style of the Song dynasty (AD960 to AD1279), when the then-capital reached its peak of urbanisation and prosperity.
An official was quoted by the newspaper as saying that public transport kiosks and tourist information centres would be decorated in similar fashion.
An official at the Kaifeng Communist Party Committee's general office, who declined to give his name, confirmed to the
Post yesterday that slums in the old district were being bulldozed, but said he was not sure what the project was for.
Professor He Yunao , from Nanjing University's School of History, told the
Post that Kaifeng was a cosmopolitan city with more than one million residents during the Song dynasty, and was even known abroad.
It was visited by the 13th-century Italian explorer Marco Polo, and even had a small community of Jews who came to the city along the Silk Road in the 10th century. The Jews reputedly built a synagogue there.
The daily life of the Kaifeng people was also depicted in one of China's most beloved scroll paintings,
Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival by the 12th-century artist Zhang Zedun.
In the past few decades, however, Kaifeng has developed at a slower pace than many mainland cities. Kaifeng party boss Qi Jinli recently said turning Kaifeng into an "international tourism centre" was one of the city's two development priorities. The other is to open an industrial zone, the
In the first half of the year, 28 million people visited the city, fewer than other major cities in the province. A government official said tourists have long complained about the lack of attractions in Kaifeng, other than an ancient iron tower.
Local authorities are planning to issue debt or use bank loans to fund the demolitions, which will cost exponentially more than the city's fiscal revenue for 2011, which was 4.9 billion yuan.
But He, the professor, said the plan to build a copycat Song dynasty town, if true, was a "crazy and bad idea". "Maybe it will be attractive to some people, but this tourism hype will only last a short while. Only tourists with low-level taste like to see these replicas."
He said many of Kaifeng's ancient buildings lay buried beneath metres of mud brought on by frequent floods over the past few hundred years.
Professor Yao Kunyi, a tourism researcher in Shanghai, said more historical replicas were cropping up nationwide for tourism, but they tended to be in the wrong styles as the builders had a weak or "distorted" understanding of history.