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If you flew into a nondescript airport, caught a bus to the city centre and saw all those distinctive marble statues, geometric gardens and sprawling Haussmannian boulevards, you sure might be duped. But no, this isn’t the Paris we all know and love. In fact, it’s the eerie housing development of Tianducheng, some 6,000 miles away on the outskirts of Hangzhou in eastern China.
Known (rather literally) as the ‘Paris of the East’, this 12-square-mile tourist district is designed to mimic the French capital in all its grandiose architectural splendour, from a down-scaled Gardens of Versailles to a 354-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. As well as drawing visitors, the area was intended to house around 10,000 locals – but despite the fact it opened more than a decade ago, only 2,000 people currently live in Tianducheng. Even when thousands of travellers flock here at peak season, all that vacant space lends it a spooky atmosphere.
From Shanghai’s London replica, Thames Town, to Guangdong’s uncanny version of Austrian town Hallstatt, the ‘duplicature’ movement is massive in China. But no facsimile has been quite as ambitious as Tianducheng. The new book by photographer François Prost, ‘Paris, China’, seeks to capture the phenomenon by placing photos of this housing development alongside its inspiration in the real French capital. Here are 12 images from that book. Spoiler: Tianducheng is on the left, Paris on the right.