It looks like China’s getting a sugar rush: this month, chocolate is hitting Beijing in the form of an extravagant three-month-long dedicated theme park, while Shanghai hosts a slightly more modest three-day chocolate exhibition.
While we’ve just gotten back from the frozen folds of Northern China, the opening of Beijing’s World Chocolate Dream Park is a delicious reason to head back up. Also referred to as the World Chocolate Wonderland, this event is no rinky-dink neighborhood fun fair; instead, it sounds like our Willy Wonka fantasies come to life. The theme park is spread over 20,000-sq-m in the Olympic Green north of the Bird’s Nest stadium, with five pavilions showcasing chocolates from around the world, and two outdoor activity areas where master chocolatiers demonstrate their craft and help visitors create personalized chocolate treats.
Adding to the wow-factor of this place are the Chinese historical and cultural symbols remade entirely out of chocolate. According to Reuters, around 80 tons of chocolate were used to make these displays, which include: an army of 560 miniature Terracotta Warriors standing on chocolate flakes; traditional Chinese paintings in their original sizes; Ming Dynasty porcelain cups; and the attention-grabbing, recent media darling Great Wall of Chocolate.
This replica of the Wall is considered an engineering feat, especially in the recreation of its crumbling, sloping, uneven parts. Completed last Thursday, it’s 10 m (33 ft) long and made of dark chocolate bricks stuck together with white chocolate. Talk about giving us a taste of China, although park organizers will probably get pretty upset if you take a bite out of their centerpiece. Plus, the Great Wall of Chocolate is probably breaking world records somewhere. “Longest chocolate wall in the world?”
For a precursor to Beijing’s chocolate land, head to Shanghai Exhibition Center for Le Salon du Chocolat, a chocolate exhibition that’s been held around the world since 1994. There might not be a Great Wall on display, but the main event is similar proof that you can create just about anything with chocolate. According to Shanghai Daily, European chocolatiers and pastry chefs are working with fashion designers to create a fashion show of ten elaborate gowns made of chocolate, with “special ingredients and techniques [to] ensure that the gown won’t melt on the models’ bodies.” We’re not sure if this means the models will be wearing nothing but chocolate – that would make it even more delicious.
While these two chocolate projects have an air of artistic purpose about them, no one is shy about their main aim: to popularize chocolate consumption in China, which (to quote Shanghai Daily) many still see as “virgin territory” and “a vast untapped market where chocolate is not part of the traditional food culture.” The World Chocolate Dream Park, the first of its kind in China, is great exposure, expected to draw up to 1.5 million visitors, and should be especially hopping during Valentine’s Day and the Spring Festival. While the chocolate market is growing in China, especially among the younger generation, it’s not the first snack of choice for most, mainly consumed in the winter months. Maybe that’s why all these chocolate-related events are heading here in winter. Who wants to eat melted chocolate in the heat of summer?
All this talk about “chocolate” and “China” reminds us of last year’s disagreement with the infamous Daniel Gross, who had trouble sniffing out cocoa treats in Wanzhou and Beijing. We’d love Gross to come back and literally eat his heart out, since there’s going to be enough chocolate around for him and the rest of China.
World Chocolate Dream Park
Location: The Olympic Green
Opening dates: January 29 to April 10, 2010
Opening times: Weekdays 9 AM to 5:30 PM; weekends 9 AM to 7:30 PM
Prices: RMB 60 (child) and 80 (adult)
Le Salon du Chocolat
Location: Shanghai Exhibition Center, 1000 Yan’an Zhong Lu, Jing An
Opening dates: January 21-23, 2010
Opening times: 9 AM to 5 PM
Prices: RMB 30 (child) and 60 (adult)