Mon, Nov 18, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Cooking up controversy

Liu Chonghua, an eccentric cake millionaire, has constructed castles based on European models, but local authorities aren’t too happy with his architectural pluralism

By Tom Hancock  /  AFP, CHONGQING, China

Liu says he spent more than 100 million yuan (US$16 million), some borrowed from friends, on the buildings, which are free to visit.

“I think the castles are very romantic,” said a woman surnamed Gao, posing for pictures in a white wedding dress outside a castle beside the headquarters of Liu’s firm, which manufactures pastries, biscuits and a product described as a “dreamlike cake.”

Some local officials feel differently, and two years ago they brought a section of Liu’s dream crashing down, sending diggers to knock over a 16m high castle gate. “That was my lowest moment,” he said.

“The government has never appreciated me, they said I’ve offended local officials,” he complained, adding: “I got anonymous calls from someone threatening to run me over with a car.”

Other newly-minted Chinese magnates have also engaged in bizarre construction projects — one businessman has built imitations of both the Great Pyramid of Giza and the palace of Versailles on his corporate campus — but Liu has ambitions for more.

“I have achieved half of my dream,” he said. “The next part is building better and more awesome castles, the kind that will astound people.”

Staring wistfully into the distance, he pointed towards a forested mound. “I will build another, bigger castle on top of that hill,” he said.

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