No, I haven’t been taking Chinese lessons (although from a business standpoint it would be a useful faculty to have). Shanzhai means “mountain stronghold” and gives a sort of Robin Hood image of taking from the rich to give to the poor. Growing consumer culture, manufacturing techniques and a blatant disregard for international copyrights and local regulations means the Shanzhai manufacturers in China have become experts in not only copying western goods, but also improving on them.
The most common Shanzhai products are mobile phones, but you can get versions of sports goods, tools, even architecture! In 2011 a US blogger discovered an entire Shanzhai Apple Store in the Chinese city of Kunming. It was full of Apple products, Apple advertising, there was a genius bar, correct decor and signage, even the staff were wearing Apple uniforms and badges. The staff actually thought they were legitimately working for Apple and had no idea not only was everything in the store a fake, but so was the store itself! The Shanzhai went beyond the actual products and as far as the shopping experience itself.
But this isn’t all! Around Shanghai there is Thames Town, a village built to resemble an English market town complete with a copy of a chip shop from Lyme Regis, cobbled streets, red telephone boxes and even the double yellow lines to stop parking. It’s one of a set of towns planned including Swedish, Italian, Spanish, American and German styles. The Austrian village of Hallstatt was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of it’s picturesque beauty….so sure enough, amongst the tourists visiting in 2011 there was a team of Chinese architects photographing and analysing the village. The Guangdong region is reportedly soon to have it’s own copy of Hallstatt, although whether you’ll be able to ski with the subtropical heat North of Hong Kong remains to be seen.
How To Do, or Can I Help You?
We Christians love going to conferences…I’ve been to many myself, and more often than not they’re led by big churches passing on their experiences, techniques, and trade secrets. These can be really helpful, extremely influential and challenging… I know for all I’ve been to, I’ve come back with a list of ideas, areas to improve and things to look at in order to transform church/get a bigger congregation/whip the band into shape/choose our songlists/re style the senior minister. And on and on and on.
Now I know they don’t really do that. The conferences I’ve been too (Willow Creek, Northpoint, Mosaic, Mecklenburg…) have all shared their experiences, failings, and personal direction to help us with our churches. But they’re always keen to emphasise how it’s their way. Not the correct way, or right way, or the only way.
I wrote about how we were starting a new rebranding project last week, and how in the initial stages of working with the designers, we needed to outline who we were as a church, what we did, and what we were there for. I know there are some churches who struggle with the questions, or who model themselves on other churches…trying to replicate the Hillsong worship style or Northpoint teaching style, rather than being themselves and being a church who relates to their community.
This applies in many different areas…I know there are times I as a worship leader try to replicate the Passion or Chris Tomlin arrangement of a song with its loops, seven guitarists, gospel choir and Christy Nockels…although on Sunday I have only one guitarist a violin and no drummer. Or those weeks when we’ve come back from Soul Survivor full of excitement and vigour (and mud), wanting to replicate the concert lighting effects and multiple smoke machines which work so well in the big top with 10,000 worshippers…but don’t translate so well into a hall of 200 with a varied age group.
Copy of a Copy of a Copy…
In addition, over the years I’ve seen so many blatant copyright ripoffs or secular industry bandwagon jumping that it almost seems as though there are no new creative ideas in the Christian spectrum today…(Adult christian colouring book anyone? EasyChurch?)
So before this turns into any more of a rant (apologies), can I encourage you to be yourself. Work to your own strengths. Learn about, and serve your congregation. There’s nothing wrong with using film clips, setting up cool lighting rigs in your hall or playing David Crowder songs. But do it your way. And then if someone wants to Shanzhai your work…encourage them, help them, point them in the right direction…and teach them how they can do it better when they do it their way. Just like Frank and….Elvis?…both doing it their way…