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A taste of Paris in Shanghai

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese developer has brought the delights of Paris to a housing estate on the outskirts of Shanghai, including the world’s second-largest replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Workers fix the bricks of a pavement at Tianducheng, a residential area on the outskirts of Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province September 1, 2007. A Chinese developer has brought the delights of Paris to a housing estate on the outskirts of Shanghai, including the world's second-largest replica of the Eiffel Tower. REUTERS/Aly Song

Tianducheng, a gated community near Hangzhou, capital of coastal Zhejiang province, boasts its own Arc de Triomphe and rows of European-style villas to attract China’s newly wealthy.

“(It) can house up to 100,000 people comfortably,” said Lu Xiaotian, a director at the Zhejiang Guangsha Co. Ltd, the estate’s developer.

Only 2,000 people currently reside in the 19 sq km (12 sq mile) complex which opened in June after five years of meticulous landscaping.

But they have the space to sit on the steps by the Bassin de Latone, an imitation of the famous fountain in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, and admire the Eiffel Tower looming above.

Tianducheng’s Eiffel Tower is 108 meters (354 feet) high, second only to the 165-metre replica at the Paris Las Vegas hotel in Nevada, and 8 meters higher than the third-largest in China’s southern city of Shenzhen.

“After the completion of its third and final phase, Tianducheng compound will offer amenities ranging from a country club, a school and a hospital, in the midst of the serene surroundings of a park atmosphere,” according to a promo on the Zhejiang government Web site.

Spurred by common notions of France as a romantic destination, Chinese honeymooners flock to Paris, and French wine, handbags and designer labels -- both real and fake -- are popular status symbols in major Chinese cities.

Tianducheng is the latest in a growing line of housing communities designed to evoke the charm and lifestyle of old European cities.

Thames Town, an hour’s drive from Shanghai’s skyscrapers, features Georgian and Victorian-style terraced houses, and caused a minor uproar after English publican Gail Caddy accused it of replicating her pub and fish-and-chip shop in Lyme Regis, a town in southwest England.

Italian and German towns are also reportedly under construction, and in 2005, shocked English press reported that a Chinese firm in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province in the country’s southwest, was recreating Dorchester, a village in Dorset that inspired novelist Thomas Hardy.