SHANGHAI, March 27 -- A 21-KILOMETER concrete dragon, considered to be the longest in China, is being built by private investors in central China's Henan Province.
The structure will eventually wind its way along the ridge line of the Shizu Mountain in Xinzheng City, according to a local newspaper report yesterday.
Investors are aiming to cash in on the influx of tourists they believe the giant beast will draw.
The dragon's head will be nearly 30 meters tall, and its body will be nine meters high and six meters wide, the report said.
The project is expected to be completed before October 1, 2009, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Li Xiong, vice board chairman of Zu Long Co, which is in charge of the project, said the 21-kilometer length represents the wish that China will experience rapid development in the 21st century.
Li said 5.6 million pieces of white marble and gilded bronze will be used to form the dragon's scales, symbolizing the country's 56 ethnic groups.
A series of display corridors will be set up in sections of the dragon's body, featuring a variety of themes, including filial piety, loyalty and patriotism.
Li said project organizers plan to spend at least 300 million yuan (US$37.5 million) on the dragon, but the figure could grow to four billion yuan if all the suggested designs are used.
About 30 million yuan has already been spent on the project, he said.
The construction of the huge dragon was initiated in 2002 by an overseas Chinese who is a native of Henan. But the project was suspended because of a shortage of funds.
Li Shumin, board chairman of Zu Long, later took over the project. He said the winding, flat ridge of the Shizu Mountain looks like a dragon, making it the perfect place for the concrete beast.
The company was set up in October 2005, with registered capital of only one million yuan, the newspaper said.
But Li Xiong said several businessmen intend to participate in the project and will sign agreements next month.
The company also plans a light rail line inside the dragon and will build facilities for leisure and sightseeing, such as a luxury club.
But some experts have questioned the whole idea. Dai Songcheng, director of the Henan institute of cultural industry, said Shizu Mountain is a symbol of Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, who is considered the earliest ancestor of ancient China.
The introduction of such an immense structure on the mountaintop is disrespectful to Huangdi, he said.