The Castle Hotel in Dalian, Liaoning, seeks to recreate a genuine Bavarian experience, replete with a beer hall and German food. (Starwood Hotels)
On the exterior, tall tower spires pierce the air as ramparts encircle the castle. On the interior, craft beer flows in the “Royal Cellar” amid sprawling stone work, wood furnishings, and high ceilings. But this isn’t a Bavarian castle, as its appearance would like you to believe—in fact, this a “castle hotel” built some 5,025 miles east of the German region. Luxury hotel chain Starwood Hotels unveiled the upcoming opening of The Castle Hotel in Dalian, a major seaport city in China’s northeastern Liaoning province. This makes it one of the various examples of European-inspired architecture sprouting across China in recent years.
Starwood Hotels announced in a press release of the opening of The Castle Hotel later this year, when it is done with its final stages of interior renovation. Built in 2002, it will be open with 292 guest rooms and 67 apartments. Apart from its German-inspired beer-and-grub “Royal Cellar,” The Castle Hotel also offers Chinese and Western restaurant options, as well as a “Lobby Lounge,” a cocktail lounge that it describes as “a place for the rich and famous to see and be seen, an elegant space which is very salonfähig," the German word for “suitable for polite company.”
China has replicated an entire UNESCO World Heritage site Hallstatt. (Baidu)
The Castle Hotel, seeking to recreate a European experience with its architecture and cuisine, is not the first of its kind in China. Another German-style castle hotel exists in Qingdao, and a Disneyland-eque one is set to go up in Fushun, Liaoning, in 2017. The mimicry does not just stop at hotels. Chinese developers have taken their European architecture obsession to new heights and have built entire reconstructions of entire towns and cites, from Paris and Vienna in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, to UNESCO World Heritage-protected village Hallstatt in Guangdong.
Huffington Post editor Bianca Bosker, who wrote a book on the topic, titled ORIGINAL COPIES: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, noticed that this Chinese “duplitecture” is part of a nationwide trend of churning out Western architecture replicas. Bosker told The Atlantic how theyare loathed by industry critics but loved by homeowners. “I was struck by the disconnect between architecture critics' contemptuous view of these themed developments—which they dismissed as kitschy, inauthentic knock-offs—and the burgeoning demand for them among Chinese homeowners, many of whom had put their life's savings toward buying a house in a faux-Sweden or copycat Orange County. Many Chinese don't just 'put up' with these copycats—they're proud of them.”
Chinese visitors who can't afford to make it to England's River Thames find the Thames Town replica a suitable compromise. (Wikimedia)
But perhaps the reason these replicas are well-received could be that more people in China are getting more affluent and more curious about the world outside, seen by the country’s burgeoning outbound tourist numbers. "I love European football, so I'm very interested in things from Europe," says a visitor Fan Yuzhe, who was visiting the British-inspired Thames Town near Shanghai, to BBC. "I really hope I can visit the real Thames River one day, sit along the banks, drink a cup of coffee and enjoy the British sunshine."
Another visitor named Zhang Li told BBC what she enjoyed about these replica towns. "Usually if you want to see foreign buildings, you have to go abroad," says Zhang. "But if we import them to China, people can save money while experiencing foreign-style architecture."
While Chinese travelers are going overseas to experience foreign sights, Chinese developers are building them on their homeland, perhaps in hopes of enticing them a comparable experience at an affordable rate. After all, not every castle in Europe can claim to offer both Chinese and Western food without having to step out of the drawbridge, as The Castle Hotel in Dalian does.