Trial and Error, Stockholm –– On a recent journey we visited two well-known Asian landmarks: The Chinese Dragon Gate and the Royal Thai Pavilion, both located in remote places in Sweden.
Dragon Gate The Chinese businessman Jingchun Li discovered a run down road tavern in Älvkarleby north of Stockholm in 2004. Because of the good energy of the area, he bought land and began to build a Dragon Gate – a gate to happiness and wealth according to Chinese tradition. This Dragon Gate will be a center for Swedish-Chinese financial relations and Mr. Li has invested 15 billion € in the project. The center includes a restaurant, a 300 square meters kung fu school, 200 terra cotta warriors, a hotel with 56 rooms individually designed inspired by the 56 provinces in China and much more.
All the building material, machines, workers, masseurs and others have been shipped from China. This has met some troubles, since Sweden is a very regulated country. One example is that in China, doors open inwards to welcome people, but in Sweden they should open outwards, in case of a fire. But despite clashes like this, the center will finally open this fall. And in the future, Mr. Li wants to import live pandas and build the largest Buddha in the world.
The Thai Pavilion
In 1868 King Chulalongkorn ascended the throne in Siam. He was, and still is, very loved since he introduced modern laws, including abolishing slavery. According to one story, a Swedish sailor in Bangkok saved one of his children, despite the threat of a death sentence for anyone who touched a member of the Royal family. Grateful for this deed, the king wanted to visit the sailor’s village in Ragunda. Another story is that he simply accepted an invitation by the Swedish king Oskar II. Anyway, he came to Sweden in 1868 and chose to travel north to study the forest industry. People everywhere honored King Chulalongkorn and his vast company, the roads was decorated and in Utanede, in Ragunda Municipality a road was named after him.
In 1992, a traveling Thai folk dancing group visited Utanede. The road named after their former king fascinated them, and things were set in motion. In 1994 a committee for Swedish and Thai interests was formed and in 1997 they began to build the only Royal Pavilion outside Thailand. The ground was blessed by monks from Thailand and ten billion € made the pavilion possible.
When we visited, carps swam in the pond, Thai people came to pray, orchids was grown from Swedish birch trees in the green house, pop versions of traditional Thai music filled the air, a light summer rain trickled down and we loved it. Much thanks to the energetic guided tour led by the project manager Ulf Edström, who also told us about his bold future plans.
Asia grows, maybe not geographically but influentially and in Sweden local initiatives have outrun Stockholm in the competition for important international connections. In Ragunda the question is: Will the Swedish prime minister Reinfeldt cancel his vacation to welcome the Thai prime minister, who will visit July 19, to celebrate the Day of King Chulalongkorn?
Official website Thai Pavilion: www.swethai.com
Official website Dragon Gate: www.dragongate.se
An earlier post on China: povblog.wordpress.com/2007/05/29/the-art-space-race/