This paper examines an unusual type of ‘cultural theme park’, one that is not based on simulating existing cultural diversity or historical places, but based in some senses on a ‘double simulation’. The theme park is based on an historical painting assumed to represent the North Song Dynasty period in Kaifeng, China; however, it is a representation that historians argue may never have existed. Utilising on-site interviews and participant observation, this paper traces the connections between the classic painting (清明上河图) and the actual historical landscape of Bianjing (the first simulation), and in so doing, unravels the links between the painting and the theme park (the second simulation) and the simulacra that are envisioned to form within the spaces of the theme park as a result of the interplay of simulations during theme park visits. The simulations and intended simulacra are ‘consumed’ to various degrees, suggesting that the representations of Kaifeng's historical past and culture have been impactful and (in)authenticity has not been an issue. Moreover, the theme park has served to entertain and, in some cases, inspire through playful appropriations of Kaifeng's past and culture. The resultant simulacra and its double simulations (in simulating both the real Bianjing and the neo-real landscape painting) contrast and simultaneously connect with rampant replications of the Occident in contemporary Chinese residential landscapes, townships and themed spaces.
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