A few days ago when I wrote about Avatar, I mentioned a Chinese blogger who felt that Hallelujah Mountain in the film was similar to the mountain in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province called South Pillar of Heaven.
Now with the movie poised to make a record $100 million from box office receipts in China, officials have decided to rename the mountain Hallelujah Mountain to pay tribute to Avatar.
Local officials said they were renaming the mountain to promote local tourism, according to the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald.
"The purpose of renaming the mountain is not to worship the foreign film, but to send a message that Zhangjiajie belongs to the world," said Song Zhiguang, a local officer who hosted the ceremony yesterday.
"We welcome friends from home and abroad to come to Zhangjiajie and have a look at the real Hallelujah Mountain," he added.
However, Internet users are not happy with officials arbitrarily renaming the mountain, ostensibly for marketing purposes.
According to an online survey on ifeng.com, 84 percent of 11,438 respondents opposed giving the mountain a new name.
Some online users even suggested boycotting travel to Zhangjiajie.
"Those officers are shameless, why not rename Zhangjiajie as Avatar?" a web user commented.
It seems Chinese officials these days are obsessed about boosting tourism in their neck of the woods in a bid to stimulate the local economy. The China National Tourism Administration is mulling over adding a China Tourism Day on the calendar also to boost domestic consumption, but provinces are having squabbles over which day it should be.
It seems strange having a China Tourism Day since most people would probably not get the day off to travel. The public holiday should really be tacked onto a Friday or a Monday to make it a long weekend so that people can actually have enough time to travel.
And now renaming a mountain after Avatar really takes the cake. Whether this will lead to streams of Avatar fans making pilgrimages to the mountain is not certain.
More likely officials will eventually quietly rename the mountain back to its original name to avoid looking like they are fawning over Hollywood blockbusters.