HANGZHOU, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- A controversial replica of the Old Summer Palace will be fully open to public in July 2019, the project's main investor Xu Wenrong said.
Covering more than 460 hectares, the replica is located in Hengdian Township, in east China's Zhejiang Province, some 1,000 kilometers from the real Beijing landmark.
The replica, which partly opened in 2015, cost estimated 30 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars).
"When I first visited the Old Summer Palace, I felt pain on seeing the broken walls, and I decided to make a replica," said Xu, the retired chairman of Hengdian Group.
Construction is almost finished after five years, and 84 percent of the real palace has been replicated.
The project courted huge controversy when it was announced in 2012, with many accusing it of bastardizing a site associated with patriotism.
The Old Summer Palace management said "a full-size replica is neither possible nor tolerable."
"[The original complex] is unique and cannot be replicated. The construction and development of the site should be planned by national organizations, and any replication of it should reach certain standards," the Old Summer Palace's administrative office said in 2015.
Xu Wenrong shot back by saying that the project "bears no conflict of interests with the one in Beijing." He said the replica recreated classic architecture to share history with the younger generation.
The Old Summer Palace, a complex of pavilions and gardens built for Qing Dynasty emperors, is regarded as a symbol of China's historical humiliation at the hands foreign powers. It was ransacked by British and French troops in 1860, and again by an allied force including troops from the United States, Russia and Britain in 1900.
It is now frequently referenced in patriotic education.
Hengdian is one of China's biggest bases for film and television. In the past few years, about 70 percent of China's films and TV series were shot in Hengdian. A number of ancient buildings, including the palace of Qin Shihuang, China's first emperor, have been replicated there.