The Reel World of Chinese Architecture

I’m sure this would be much better served by a BLDGBLOG post, but I’ll take my shot. A few days ago, I posted the newly unveiled images of what will be one of the largest movie studios in North America. I thought it was big; at least it sounded big. Well, Toronto and Hollywood have nothing on Hendigan, the southern Chinese film studio that has the dubious honor of being the world’s largest. NPR reports:

In just 10 years, Hengdian has transformed itself from a poverty-stricken farming village to a collection of replica palaces, temples and historical streets, open to film crews, often for free.

These aren’t just replicas, they’re full-size reproductions of iconic Chinese architecture. The Forbidden City in Beijing, for example:Forbidden City, BeijingForbidden City, Henigan (the mountains are kind of a giveaway)It’s an amazing and terrifying verisimilitude. Even more so because China’s very real history is being projected onto the structures themselves — really just facades and empty shells — outside the context of the in-film world.

In China – where old buildings are torn down in the blink of an eye – many visitors say they haven’t come for the movie glamour, but to learn about their country’s past – from the fake buildings.

…and somewhere, Alanis Morrissette just wrote another verse. This ironic historicism seems like a very American idea to me, and there’s a big New Orleans-centric tangent I could go off on here but I think I’ll save that for a later addendum. For now, let’s just enjoy more images.Another view of the Forbidden City, Beijing…and the ersatz Forbidden City, Hendigan.Finally, I’m once again reminded of Charlie Kauffman’s new film, Synechdoche, New York; the absurdity of which I waxed on a few weeks ago. After seeing these images though, I have to say that the idea seems a lot less irrational…