On February 1st, coinciding with the Year of the Tiger, let’s talk about something easy-going.

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There is a saying in the robotics industry that there are four major families: ABB, Yaskawa, Fanuc, and KUKA.

Among these four companies, the one that produces the most stunning and visually appealing products is undoubtedly Germany’s KUKA (now under the Midea Group), exuding a sense of luxury and elegance similar to Mercedes-Benz and BMW.


(Image source: Official website of KUKA)

In the era of VR, this function is simply amazing. Put on the VR glasses, sit behind the programming-controlled KUKA and you can experience a variety of extreme sports: skiing, surfing, rock climbing, parkour…

So what about cooler applications?

It’s flying on a broomstick with Harry Potter in Universal Studios.

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When Beijing Universal Studios had a trial run last year, negative news inundated the media. Various self-media articles criticizing the park for being “provincial” and “expensive” came one after another.

As an old Beijinger who settled down in the 1980s, I used to believe those reports to be true, because the various constructions after the reform and opening up truly left one at a loss for words. “Tacky” seemed to have become Beijing’s label.

The most beautiful landmarks in Beijing still remain the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.

I calculated that the cost of construction for the Summer Palace back then should not have exceeded 5 billion RMB at today’s value. So, is the Universal Studios, which was built for 50 billion RMB, really that unbearable?

As an enthusiast for pampered children, I have visited Universal Studios six times in a short span of months. Having surpassed the age of obsession with amusement rides, I gradually began to notice details that ordinary visitors wouldn’t pay attention to.

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Universal Studios has used a massive variety of different building materials, all of which look expensive and durable. For example, the tiles, fences, and handrails have not been compromised by cutting corners to save money. The seven theme parks, including Hollywood Boulevard, use specially designed materials which are meticulously chosen. Take, for instance, the European cobblestone flooring used in the Harry Potter castle. Even the gaps between the stones are perfectly crafted.

To put it simply, when it comes to using metal in global affairs, plastic will not suffice; when it comes to using stainless steel, galvanized pipes will not do; and when it comes to using wood, metal is simply not an option.


(The shop where Harry Potter buys his wand)

Even when it comes to the simplest part of the parking lot, which is the parking garage, most high-end hotels and shopping malls cannot compare. Even just looking at the fire doors, they far exceed national standards, and even the sound system in the parking area is immersive in a 360-degree surround sound.

In various details of the design, it is more evident that Universal Studios strives for excellence.

Pursuing an immersive theme park requires avoiding anything visually jarring. For example, in the Harry Potter Castle, it is unacceptable to catch a glimpse of the residential area in the distant tower or the towering Dragon Challenge roller coasters nearby. Even in the various gift shops within the castle, one seldom finds any modern-looking cash registers. All the interior designs must have an intentionally aged appearance; no brand-new items are allowed.

It should be said that the various details considered by the designer have far exceeded what ordinary tourists can see.

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Some people may still be skeptical: “Is that it? Spending 50 billion, what’s the big deal?”

Arguing about this is indeed boring, experts who see the high specifications of various constructions such as mountains and lakes will mostly sympathize with the construction unit that took on such a non-standard project.

The man-made Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace looks very similar to the one in Universal Studios’ Jurassic World, which also features a large lake. Interestingly, Universal opted to rename their lake “Empress Dowager Xiao River” to match the one that was designed a hundred years ago by Empress Dowager Cixi during the construction of the Summer Palace. This change was made in a very harmonious way, seamlessly weaving through the scenic area.


On the Xiao Taihou River, Global has erected a 6666 auspicious fountain sculpture.

There is a very exciting story in “The Generals of the Yang Family” that tells of Yang Liu being poisoned and needing to obtain “dragon whiskers and phoenix hair” as an antidote. “Phoenix hair” specifically refers to the three red hairs on the head of the enemy country’s leader, the Empress Dowager of the Liao Dynasty. In “The Legend of the Condor Heroes,” Qiao Feng later changes his surname to Xiao, also because he is a descendant of this lineage. And this Empress Dowager Xiao is the early activist and builder of both Beijing City and Universal Studios.

Of course, the various amusement facilities around the world are absolutely not to be underestimated. For example, the KUKA Forbidden Journey seat and the Flying Jurassic seat, which I have calculated to cost approximately one million US dollars per set. In terms of price, waiting in line for half an hour to ride once is still worth it.


Canopy Flyer 2.0

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As a Beijing person who often resides in Shanghai, I truly appreciate and admire Shanghai’s cityscape, municipal administration, and convenient lifestyle. Here, I would like to provide a small comparison to Disneyland for your amusement.

People have different preferences for various film and television intellectual properties, but for me who is obsessed with food, comparing restaurants and dining is an enjoyable activity.

Although Shanghai’s overall dining level is higher than that of Beijing, when comparing solely Disney Town in Shanghai and Universal CityWalk in Beijing, I believe Universal CityWalk clearly wins because the key to excellent tourism lies in experiences that are out of the ordinary.

From the selection of merchants, it is evident that Global has put in more effort and spared no expense: many exclusive brands such as Bubba Gump Shrimp, Cowfish Sushi Burger, and Red Stove Pizza were imported directly from the United States along with their décor. In addition, the black pepper crab from Singapore’s Jumbo Seafood, desserts from The Chocolate Factory, coffee from Uncle Peter’s Café, and the half-meter hot dog from BMW Restaurant are all kept true to their original recipes and have not been localized.

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Now let’s return to engineering construction. Compared to the high-profile of Daxing Airport, I am a little puzzled why all parties are promoting the construction of the Global Park so quietly.

Two Google satellite images show how the Belt and Road Initiative has taken shape from the ground up during the past two years, despite the presence of the pandemic. This can be considered as one of the highest quality construction projects since China’s reform and opening up policy.


In May 2018, it looked like a sandbox.


January 2021 (Xiao Taohou River frozen in white)

My first job was to manage the automotive painting line project, so I fully understand that such a massive project is bound to encounter numerous site changes and requires solving a large number of structural interferences, complex rigging, and various coordination conflicts among teams, including civil engineering, HVAC, fire protection, and electrical engineering during the construction process.

According to the information, the peak period of construction saw more than 30,000 workers, and nearly a thousand foreign experts were granted entry during the epidemic period alone. This is a testament to the world-class coordination and management of the entire project.

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Translation: Image source: Universal Studios official website.

After all the famous historical sites and scenic spots, Beijing finally has another remarkable tourist destination: the world’s largest Universal Studios.

The ticket costs around 500 yuan to venture into the detail-rich theme park with a total value of 50 billion yuan, which is quite an interesting experience. However, if you only want to spend 5 yuan, you can take the subway to stroll around the free City Avenue, where you can visit Forrest Gump’s ping pong table and touch his chocolate box.

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On the occasion of this Chinese New Year, I wish my friends a happy and prosperous Year of the Tiger, filled with health and joy!