Thursday, April 29, 2010

Haibao Versus Gumby

Just days before the 2010 Shanghai Expo is set to start, an uproar has erupted about how many things are plagiarized, causing embarassment for the organizers.

First off is that Haibao, the blue official mascot, who seems to have a resemblance to Gumby, the green clay character who has a series of adventures with his friends in toyland.

An NPR reporter by the name of Louisa Lim gained instant fame after she accused the organizers at a recent press conference for plagiarizing Gumby.

The designer of Haibao, Wu Yongjian had said that the creature is inspired by the Chinese character for person or people called ren (人)with a cowlick on top. For some foreigners, though, one look at Haibao immediately reminded them of Gumby.

Then there's the China pavilion.

It's this giant red temple-like structure whose roof is an inverted pyramid and stands on four pillars that seems to tower everything else nearby. Called 'The Crown of the East", it seems very ... square and rigid, red and imposing. Sound familiar?

However, critics claim its design is very similar to the Japan pavilion designed by Tadao Ando that was presented at the 1992 Expo in Seville, Spain.

Ni Yang, a deputy chief designer who is also the deputy dean of the Architectural Design Institute at South China University told the Guangzhou-based New Express newspaper  was interviewed by a media outlet from Guangdong denied the accusation.

"There are several differences between his and my work," Ni said, referring to Ando's design. "His work was for the purpose of decoration, but mine is a building. The style of the pavilion is widely used in architecture design, so that is not the creation of Tadao Ando."

Another architect, Cui Tong, who is chief designer at the Institute of Architecture Design and Research at the China Academy of Sciences said the design of the pavilion is inspired by a traditional Chinese style, suggesting that the plagiarism accusations are being pointed in the wrong direction.

And finally... the theme song for the Expo, "Right Here Waiting for you 2010" which was sung by a number of artists, including martial arts whiz/actor/singer Jackie Chan, was found to be practically identical to a Japanese song called "Stay the Way You Are" sung by Mayo Okamoto released in 1997.

On this count organizers went beet red as the song was immediately pulled off the airwaves last week citing copyright concerns and has not been heard of since.

While it's great that Shanghai is hosting this Exposition, one would assume the organizers would try to put a bit more effort into striving for originality.

After all, isn't that what the Expo is about?


RoseBelle said...

If you didn't point out to these similarities, I wouldn't have noticed them at all. Originality and creativity is important but, and here's a big BUT to it, it is very possible that two people out of 6 billion people on this planet can think the same. It has happened to me at work, my idea was thought to be copied off from someone else's when in fact, I had never seen or heard of that person's idea before. There were parallel symmetry in both my and the other person's ideas just like the Haibao and the pavillion. If you focus on just the probability rather than the improbability, it's so much easier to say that the work was copied.

ks said...

agree, nowadays because people's thinking on more or less the same lines there are a lot of similarities. look at fashion designs, motor cars, buildings, there are similar patterns, use of color, form etc. people just influence one another, i don't think it is plagerism. i think it is only china bashing. haibao is definitely much nicer looking than gumpy. japan copied chinese architecture during tang dynasty. the 'crown of the east' is original chinese concept. to ancient china only the middle kingdom is civilized. the rest are just barbarians.

Tom said...

The controversy surrounding the Shanghai Expo only steps up a notch! China not only ripped off a Japanese song for its Shanghai Expo theme, and reworked Gumby for its mascot, but the not so iconic China Pavilion is actually a copy of the Bratislava Radio Pyramid. Details at

Tom said...

Hillary Clinton not afraid to challenge the Chinese on the pressing issue between the powers: Did China steal Gumby for the Shanghai Expo. Meanwhile, protests sweep America as Gumby-gate goes global. Read about it at:!.html