Saturday, May 8, 2010

Going Medieval in China

At some point or another, everyone dreams of being a billionaire. Unlimited travel in private jets, hotels and retreats that make the average person’s house look like a pile of saw dust, tiny portions of food that cost more than a month’s rent. These are the things we dream of for a short while before ultimately deciding that the rich person’s life is completely ludicrous.

I would say that billionaires are eccentric by definition, and it is always fascinating to see how they ultimately spend their money. Bill Gates, Microsoft meganaire, eventually created a charitable foundation catering to the needs of millions. Liu Congguang, on the other hand, decided that there weren’t enough castles in China and that it was his duty to play feudal lord of the 21st century.

As a huge fan of medieval times, I was excited to read about Chinese billionaire Liu Congguang’s mission to “build more castles in China than there are in Europe”, as well as the largest castle in the world. Liu founded a ‘food’ company that specializes in premium twinkie-like products, if there are such things, and quickly made billions off the ho-ho chewing middle class.

My initial excitement waned slightly when I read that Liu was adorning his castles with a mishmash of conflicting statues including:

  • Knights: Perfectly up to code.
  • Elephants: Not typical, but anything the size of two to three cars stacked on top of each other is reasonably castle-esque.
  • “Grecian ladies with harps”: Reasonable.
  • Pirates and Clamshells: Charlemagne would be aghast.
  • “Turtle soldiers”: What?

To round them his crazy vision out, Liu added a statue of Pinocchio, just because he could. Apparently Liu’s ideas of castles are those of the Disney and fantasy variety. Which is a shame since castles are … real. If Liu somehow achieves his dream of a castle-filled China, then China’s history will become more fantasy than reality. Then maybe someday, I will be able to take my kids to the magical fairy land of China.

-Ted Gault, former hostel intern

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