COPENHAGEN, June 15 (Xinhua) -- The bronze-skinned Little Mermaid has sat pensively on the edge of Copenhagen's harbor since 1913, drawing at least 1 million visitors a year, among them Chinese.
The Mermaid is catching much spotlight these days, particularly in China, as Chinese President Hu Jintao, who kicked off a state visit to Denmark Thursday, is scheduled to appreciate it in a boat trip very soon.
The 1.25-meter-tall statue was created by Danish-Icelandic sculptor Edvard Eriksen to commemorate the leading character in the 19th-century fairytale "The Little Mermaid" by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
The story recounts how the mermaid gives up her voice and her life in the ocean depths to get human legs that would allow her to live on land with her beloved, a human prince.
The sculpture's international fame grew after it was beheaded by hooligans in 1963. Since then, the Little Mermaid has been repeatedly repaired and vandalized, including a shocking 2003 incident when she was blown off her perch by vandals using explosives.
In the spring of 2010, the statue was brought to the Shanghai World Expo 2010 as a token of China-Denmark friendship, which also marked the first time the statue left its perch at the Copenhagen harbor in almost a century.
The mermaid formed the centerpiece of the Danish Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, with the pavilion itself drawing more than 5.58 million visitors, roughly the same number of people as the total population of Denmark.
This far exceeded the 3 million visitors originally expected by Danish organizers, said Christopher Bo Bramsen, Denmark's Commissioner General to the Shanghai Expo.
"The Little Mermaid is the best ambassador that we could have. The Chinese really appreciate Hans Christian Andersen. So it is a big deal that we send the real Little Mermaid to China. It has been noted by China and the world," Bramsen said.
The Danish Pavilion was also aesthetically unique. The pavilion which housed the statue was designed by the award-winning architectural firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), and was built around an artificial pond, whose water came from the sea surrounding the statue in Copenhagen harbor.
Bjarke Ingels, designer of the Danish Pavilion, was also the one who first proposed the Little Mermaid's historic trip to China.
"Why did we send the Little Mermaid to China? Because we realized that she has become part of Chinese culture," Ingels said.
During the competition to design the pavilion, Ingels' team compared aspects of Danish and Chinese cultures and found a large overlap between them.
"In China's public school curriculum, you have three fairy tales written by Hans Christian Andersen. That means all Chinese have grown up with the naked Emperor from 'The Emperor's New Clothes,' 'The Little Match Girl,' and 'The Little Mermaid,'" Ingels said.
"We thought it would be exciting for China's 1.3 billion people to be able to experience the Little Mermaid in real life," he said.
The pavilion operator shipped in the seawater from Copenhagen to create a familiar environment for the statue, and a camera was installed in the pavilion to transmit live pictures to a giant screen on the site where the mermaid normally sits in Copenhagen.
Former Chinese Ambassador to Denmark Xie Hangsheng said it was a great opportunity for many Chinese people to see the iconic statue and experience part of Denmark's culture, as many of them were so familiar with Andersen's fairytales.
"It was a most popular exhibition and served as a signal to show the good relations between the two countries," Xie said.
On August 23, 2010, celebrations were held for the Little Mermaid at the Denmark Pavilion to mark the 97th anniversary of its installation. This was also the first time the statue was out of the country on its birthday.
Moreover, the Denmark Pavilion held a water show highlighting Andersen's fairytale that has made the Little Mermaid so popular around the world.
The idea of sending the Little Mermaid to China initially encountered some opposition in Denmark, but that waned as the Expo proceeded.
Danish media reported positively about the statue's trip to China, saying it had been a great success.
On Nov. 20, 2010, the Little Mermaid returned from her maiden trip abroad, after achieving nothing short of a fairytale success at the Shanghai World Expo.
Hundreds of onlookers cheered and waved Danish flags as the statue was lowered by a crane back onto her perch at Langelinie Quay in Copenhagen Harbor.