September 25, 2023

China is bringing the ill-fated Titanic vessel back to life

China is bringing the ill-fated Titanic vessel back to life. More than a century later, after its ill-fated maiden voyage, Titanic is being brought back in a landlocked Chinese theme park where tourists can soon splash out for a night on a full-scale replica.

Investors spent a billion yuan in 2014 for the construction of the full size replica.

The project’s main backer was inspired to recreate the world’s most infamous cruise liner by the 1997 box office hit of the same name — once the world’s top-grossing film and wildly popular in China.

The original luxury vessel, the largest of its time and branded “unsinkable” by its owners, has become a byword for hubris ever since it plunged into the depths of the Atlantic in 1912 after striking an iceberg, leaving more than 1,500 people dead.

Su Shaojun, a Chinese investor who funded the replica, said that he was motivated to finance the audacious, 260m ship to keep memories of the Titanic alive.

China is bringing the ill-fated Titanic vessel back to life

China is bringing the ill-fated Titanic vessel back to life
China is bringing the ill-fated Titanic vessel back to life

“I hope this ship will be here in 100 or 200 years,” Su said. “We are building a museum for the Titanic.”

It has taken six years — longer than the construction of the original vessel — as well as 23,000 tonnes of steel, more than 100 workers and a hefty 1 billion yuan (US$153.5 million) price tag.

Everything from the dining room to the luxury cabins and even the door handles are styled on the original Titanic.

It forms the centerpiece of a Sichuan Province theme park more than 1,000km from the sea. The site features a replica of the Port of Southampton seen in the 1997 disaster epic, directed by James Cameron, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s fictional character, Jack, swings on board after winning his ticket in a bet.

Tour buses play the film’s theme tune, Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, on repeat.

It costs up to 2,000 yuan to spend one night on the ship for the “five-star cruise service,” Su said, adding that with a functioning steam engine, guests would feel that they are really at sea.

He was so excited by the challenge that he sold his energy industry assets, including a stake in several hydropower projects, to invest in his Titanic.

However, even before opening, the replica has drawn plenty of controversy.

Online users have questioned whether the famous ship would attract tourists given the disaster that struck its real-life inspiration. Others feared that it would join other ambitious Chinese building projects that turned into white elephants — including a 2008 replica of the USS Enterprise, a US aircraft carrier, which cost more than US$18 million and was abandoned shortly after it opened.

Su hopes that as many as 5 million annual visitors will come to see his Titanic.

“This tourist volume should guarantee the return of our investment,” he added.

Xu Junnian, who manages the project, said that he felt it was important to preserve the titanic vessel’s memory.

“The greatest significance of building this ship is to carry forward and inherit the great spirit of Titanic,” he said.

Aside from the enduring appeal of the Hollywood blockbuster, the Titanic has over the past few weeks stolen headlines in China with the release of a new documentary called The Six.

The film tells the story of a group of Chinese travelers on board when the ship sinks, of whom six survived.

However, the developers are hoping to rope in some bigger names to help draw visitors.

“We’d like to invite Jack, Rose and James Cameron to the inauguration ceremony,” Su said.

Play Quiz and Test Your Knowledge: