The paper investigates the relationship between consumerism, nationalism, and urban design in China today. The Yancheng Castle theme park is used as a case study. The castle was built in the Spring and Autumn period, about 2500 years ago. Today only three moats exist, corresponding to the three circles of walls which protected this military fortress in ancient times. Around these archeological remains a theme park has been developed, creating new fortifications and buildings with traditional materials and construction techniques. A range of activities and shows are held in the park, including water battles and earth battles.
The first section provides a theoretical framework to the case study. The different attitude towards the past in China and in the West is highlighted. Umberto Eco’s notion of hyperreality is then introduced, relating it to Benedict Anderson’s idea of the nation as an imagined community. We argue that the production of hyperreal urban spaces is as a way to promote nationalism through urban design in an increasingly consumerist society. The second section focuses on Yancheng Castle case study. The conclusive section provides a critical reading of this architectural/cultural trend, relating it to the ‘need of escape’ from current living conditions in contemporary Chinese cities.