Huge duck makes debut in Beijing


China’s first authentic version of a giant rubber duck that has made a splash around the world and inspired fakes across the country made its debut Friday — but some complained that visitors had to pay to see it.

The inflatable yellow bird, which has made appearances from Australia to South America since 2007, attracted huge attention in China after it arrived in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor to rave reviews, bobbing up and down in front of the city’s distinctive skyline.

The Beijing debut came just a day after thousands of people crowded the harbor of a Taiwanese city to welcome another of the rubber ducks. Officials in Kaohsiung hope their iconic guest will attract about 3 million visitors and generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue. The 18-meter-tall object is to remain in the city until Oct. 20, when it will begin visiting other locations in Taiwan.

Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman promotes the oversized toy’s universal appeal on his website as knowing “no frontiers” and “soft, friendly and suitable for all ages.”

But the artwork took a commercial turn in China, with property developers setting up imitations in Hangzhou, Tianjin and other cities, which was criticized by the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.

Previous displays of the rubber duck have normally been free, but the moneymaking continued with the authentic creation in Beijing as it went on show at the International Garden Expo on the outskirts of the city, which costs 100 yuan ($16) to enter.

After a few weeks, the duck will shift to the Summer Palace, a tourist spot that also charges an entrance fee.

Expo official Qiao Xiaopeng said that there are currently no plans to offer a free day but that the vast grounds — spanning 250 hectares — can accommodate large numbers of visitors.

The first crowds Friday were small. Viewers meandered along a pathway on the bank of a river where the duck floated before a backdrop of flowers and greenery spelling out “International Garden Expo” in large letters.

Kang Jing, 26, said she thought viewing the duck should be free, at least for Beijing residents. “That would let more people come see it, which would be better,” she said.

The duck was not completely inflated by the time of its debut, with its beak somewhat limp and body tilting forward.

“It should be fatter and cuter,” said Kang. The duck looked smaller than she expected, Kang added, even though the Beijing version was made to be 18 meters high, compared with 16.5 meters in Hong Kong. Most ducks have ranged from 5 to 15 meters, although one in France reached 26 meters.

Wu Yiying, 26, said the entrance fee was reasonable because she could see the expo and photograph the real duck.

The fakes were good “for people in other places who can’t come to Beijing or Hong Kong, if they really want to see it,” she said.

“But ultimately the designer designed this and we should respect what he created.”

A well-known restaurant, Quanjude, sought to take advantage of the installation by using it to advertise its own showpiece, Peking duck.