Tourists are Taking Photos In Front of a Fake Tsinghua Landmark… In Front of the Real Tsinghua Landmark

In China, true power resides in symbols — so much that symbols sometimes supercede the people or institutions they represent. So when Tsinghua University decided to renovate its iconic gated entrance earlier this month, they knew that they couldn't hide it from millions of tourists that specifically come to its campus to see it. Instead, they did the next best thing: cover it up with an exact copy of itself.

The fake was put up in front of the real landmark at the beginning of the month in order to accommodate renovations made in advance of Tsinghua University's 107th anniversary that will arrive on Apr 28.

Although a scaffold surrounding the gate can be seen in photographs taken from behind (shown below), the renovations are largely hidden from view from the front.

Even though the renovations would only take a couple of weeks, the school explained that the life-size facsimile was provided for visiting tourists. And, they did not disappoint.

READ: Tsinghua University Landmark Featured an English Mistake for Years Without Correction

On multiple Weibo micro-blogging accounts, tourists are seen happily taking photos with the fake version of the Tsinghua University landmark:

At the same time, local residents seem to be amused by the "face-saving" measure. One resident who made a drive-by video of the 2D landmark said, "I'm terrified what would happen if a big gust of wind came along."

As China's top academic institution, Tsinghua is the ultimate destination for millions of hopeful Chinese students who hope to increase their slim chances of enrollment by attending its campus.

READ: Sink or Swim: Tsinghua Students Must Pass Compulsory Swim Test in Order to Graduate

Literally "getting in through the back door," parents will line up for hours with their children just for a chance to take photos of them wearing mock graduation gowns on the Tsinghua campus. Meanwhile, other visitors signal their intentions by leaving graffiti with the common theme of "I will return."

As a symbol of power, the main Tsinghua entrance had traditionally been a target by tourists for vandalization. That's why it's all the more ironic that even though the facade was made to accommodate tourists, the gate renovations will actually serve to ward them off with a graffiti resistent coating.

It could be that Tsinghua University's iconic gate will begin to lose its potency as a symbol if tourists are denied the ability to harness it for their own purposes. And yet, the landmark that has been featured in so many tourists' photos isn't even the real school gates built in 1909, but a copy made in 1991 after the original was torn down by the school's own Red Guard in 1966.

But, symbols continue to hold power in China. 

Doorways lead to places; famous doorways lead to famous places. And for Tsinghua's fake backdrop of its iconic gate, a fake doorway is important for leading to an intangible goal in your mind. 

More stories from this author here.

E-Mail: charlesliu1 (at) qq (dot) com 
Twitter: @Sinopath

Images: Weibo (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)