Shanzhai is not Counterfeit!

Shanzhai is not Counterfeit!


“Shanzhai”, which literally means mountain villages in remote areas, becomes a word represents copying, faking and mashing up brands. Mostly, Shanzhai products try to take advantage of the familiarization of the famous brands to attract customers.

However, shanzhai has totally different definition with counterfeit although people always take them as the same. Both Shanzhai and counterfeit showed up because of the low-cost and high quality “knock-off” electronic products like fake iphones in China.

Although both phones imitate the shape, the layout, the thickness and the color of iphone 6, the Shanzhai Iphone designs its own logo as a bee, and it has its own name called goophone. However, the counterfeit one just keeps the iphone name and the apple logo on it. In that, the aim of Shanzhai culture is mostly to evoke the original brands by including the most obvious characteristics of the real products while the counterfeits are designed to make the fake things as similar as possible to the real ones to convince the consumers.


As showing in the photos, the left side are the Shanzhai products, and the right side are the real ones. After the Shanzhai process, the characteristics of the products sometimes become completely different from the original ones. Like when KFC becomes Obama Chicken, the brand shows funny, ridiculous or even ironic attitude.

Is it possible to apply Shanzhai process to architecture? Of course yes. 

There are thousands of strategies to build a Shanzhai architecture. Like the Shanzhai Villa Savoye in Australia use different materials and colors, the Shanzhai Wangjing Soho Tower simplify the sophisticated curves, and the Shanzhai paris in China change the scale of a real paris. Sometimes, a Shanzhai process will make the outcome more complex, like the Shanzhai Cloud gate add more bubbles decoration on the landscape.


Based on the Shanzhai Culture Research, I am going to introduce a story about San Gabriel Valley called another San Gabriel Valley.

A woman and a man are both on their road trip in the desert. They meet each other by chance in a fried chicken restaurant called OFC as there are no places for food other than this Shanzhai KFC. The man begins to talk about where he comes from, San Gabriel Valley.

The man mentions about lots of architectural elements to introduce how San Gabriel Valley looks like. However, affected by the restaurant, what comes into the woman’s mind are all Shanzhai versions of these elements. The colors change to the decoration colors of the fast food restaurant. San Gabriel Valley as a Chinatown reminds the woman of the Chinese gate in every Chinatown, but it is super simplified as she can not remember all the details. After a long conversation, lots of information become to mesh up in her mind. Multiple elements become to rotate, scale, stake and combine.

The man leaves first. Then, the woman starts to think about what a whole San Gabriel Valley looks like. In her imagination, the first thing she sees is a Chinese gate which defines the territory of San Gabriel Valley. But the Spanish Colonial Revival manner also gives the entrance a semicircular window and arched doors. Walks into it, the Ticket center with a dome roof is nested in a pavilion with giant double-columns. Get through the Pavillian, there is a courtyard where she can have a best view of the building around her. Both the left side and the right side are exhibition halls to displays Chinese culture elements like the danced lion, the dragon, or the Shanzhai products. After visits all the exhibition rooms, she arrives at a lounge space with Café under a large horizontal curved roof and gift shop inside a tower with cone roof.

Here is another San Gabriel Valley, she thinks.

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