Egypt angered about China's fake Sphinx

Updated: 2014-05-26 08:03

By Zheng Jinran in Beijing and Zhang Yu in Shijiazhuang (China Daily)

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Egypt angered about China's fake Sphinx

A same-size replica of an icon of ancient Egyptian culture was built in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province. The Egyptian government says the duplicate undermines their country's Great Sphinx of Giza (right). The replica is made of concrete reinforced with steel.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The Egyptian government is protesting Hebei province's replica Great Sphinx of Giza, saying the structure undermines the country's cultural heritage.

The company that built the replica as part of a movie set responded that it would tear down the statue after that movie is finished.

The Sphinx copy, about 80 meters long and 30 meters tall, looks much like the original, 4,500-year-old limestone Sphinx southwest of Cairo. The copy, in a theme park near the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, has attracted many visitors since April when construction was finished.

However, Egypt is not flattered by the imitation.

Mohammed Ibrahim, Egypt's minister of antiquities, said the country has filed objections to the Chinese version with UNESCO. Ibrahim said the phony Sphinx violated UNESCO's 1972 Convention and is "a violation of Egypt's rights to its cultural heritage and a bad imitation that disfigures the original", according to a report in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly on Friday.

In response to the criticism, a manager of the theme park who identified himself only by his surname, Shen, said the fake Sphinx is only a movie prop and it will be demolished after filming is completed.

"We did not use it for commercial purposes and did not charge fees from visitors, nor do we intend to make it a tourist attraction," Shen said. The company is sorry for any misunderstanding, he added.

The theme park plans to build some more cultural heritage sites from China, such as temples, as movie sets. The total cost of the project will be 5 billion yuan ($802 million).

Many people came to see the controversial replica on Sunday.

Dozens of shops and restaurants lined the roads surrounding the theme park, attracting many people who lingered and spent money.

Seven of the visitors said the faux Sphinx was a waste of money if the park is going to demolish it already. An anonymous worker from the construction company said the cost of the cloned Sphinx was about 8 million yuan.

Some visitors suggested the company needs only to change the Hebei statue by altering the head or adding a tail to avoid complaints.

Feng Xiaoqing, a law professor of intellectual property rights at China University of Political Science and Law, said it has not been confirmed that the cloned Sphinx resulted in a direct economic loss to the original one.

He said people will not confuse the Chinese version of the Sphinx with the Egyptian one, so claims that the Chinese Sphinx violates intellectual property rights are unfounded.