And Finally

Absolutely quackers

Why Chinese cities have been invaded by giant yellow birds

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Peking duck: the Beijing version disappointed owing to a saggy beak

When a 16.5-metre duck made Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour its temporary home earlier this year, people flocked to see the enormous visitor. The mood was almost giddy. The South China Morning Post covered the story with an editorial under the heading: “Giant rubber duck has united the city”.

But now that imitations of the inflatable bird have arrived in Beijing as well as a host of other Chinese cities – including Chongqing and Hangzhou – it is bringing consternation rather than celebration with it.

The original duck was designed by a Dutch artist called Florentijn Hofman. But his success in Hong Kong has led to a proliferation of copycats across China. Some sport blue bow-ties or long eyelashes, reports Economy and Nation Weekly, while others have donned green waistcoats or turn up accompanied by eggs.

You might say that they are variations on a theme, taking the original as their inspiration. But Hofman is furious about the shanzhai (fake) versions. “If I were a Chinese, I would resent this – as such behaviour could destroy society and culture,” he darkly told Economy and Nation Weekly.

Another problem for Beijing’s duck is that it hasn’t wowed the crowds like its Hong Kong predecessor. Quality control seems to be partly to blame. The Shanghai Daily reports that a bout of beak fixing was required soon after the duck’s arrival, with onlookers quick to complain about its droopy mouth and wrinkly skin (see photo).

“He must have disguised himself as a chicken so that he won’t be taken away by Quanjude,” the newspaper cites a netizen as saying, referring to the capital’s renowned Peking duck restaurant.

Another gripe in Beijing is that there is a charge to see the duck, which wasn’t the case in Hong Kong. Tickets at the Beijing Garden Expo cost Rmb100 ($16.33), reports Wang Yu, a 30 year-old IT engineer, summed up the complaints: “I really do not want to spend money to glance at a giant rubber duck across a sea of people.”

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