Ever Heard of Jackson Hole, China? You Have Now
November 18, 2019
If you’re a big fan of the Disney animated classic Mulan but have always wished the titular Chinese heroine spent a little more time hanging out in a saloon drinking whiskey with cowboys, you’re in luck. At at least, that’s the unusual aesthetic you might find if you ever make it to Jackson Hole, China.
That’s right—Jackson Hole, China. Less than two hours from the smog-choked skyscrapers of Beijing—and not far from a section of the Great Wall—lies a development that looks eerily familiar to anyone who’s been to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There you’ll find 1500 comfortable log cabin homes decorated by taxidermy, antlers, and other rustic touches. There’s no skiing to be found, but the surrounding mountains do look a bit like Wyoming if you squint. The security guards even wear cowboy outfits as they drive around in golf carts.
It all started when developer Liu Xiangyang wanted to capitalize on the Chinese upper middle class’s interest in American culture. And not just America, but the allure of the Wild West. In an interview with The Atlantic, Allison Smith, the American designer who worked with Liu on the project, said:
“[The Chinese developers] really wanted it to be something American. We listed major names of resort communities up on a big board, and one of them was Jackson Hole. They were just immediately attracted to the idea…The whole thing of pioneering the West was fascinating to them. The cowboys, the Indians, discovering gold, the history behind it. I think part of it is also the idea of freedom from the mother country.”
Thanks to Liu and Smith, the Chinese residents can escape from the city for the weekend for a kind of prolonged fantasy.
“For those who can afford to buy houses here, they have enough money,” Liu explained to CNN. “They want spiritual fulfillment.”
That spiritual fulfillment isn’t cheap. According to Smith, the first model homes sold for $180,000 to $330,000 and have now tripled in value. That figure seems right on target for a place trying to emulate the Wyoming Jackson (where, according to Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, the average single-family home in Teton County sells for $1.1 million), but it seems especially steep when you consider that the average Chinese urban worker makes just $4,000 a year, according to the World Bank.
Still, for those who can afford it, the Chinese Jackson Hole provides a convincing facsimile of the American way of life—the community includes both a frontier-style Christian church and a Disney store. Its Chinese name actually translates to “Hometown, USA.”
“Throughout our planning, they ask ‘What does the American kitchen/bathroom/master suite look like?’” Smith said on her website. “I suggest they include some design features familiar to Chinese culture but no, they are fascinated with American homes, all things American.”
Intrigued? You can watch a tour of China’s Jackson Hole here.