A panda artwork created by French contemporary artist Richard Orlinski for Operation Panda at Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Paris. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
If you go to a New Year's market in Paris, you would probably expect to find mulled wine, toffee apple, candy floss, fudge and a cup of warm cider perhaps. But this year, there was a little twist－a naughty panda.
Relax, there wasn't a real black and white chubby bear running along the River Seine causing chaos.
But since Dec 13, in the New Year market of the sixth district of Paris, the buzzing area of Saint-Germaindes-Pres, was a giant red panda art work by renowned French contemporary artist Richard Orlinski.
The artwork came about as a result of Operation Panda－a joint project between two streets－one in Paris and one in Chengdu, known as China's panda town and foodie heaven.
In addition, at the local traditional French New Year market, there was a special display of wood cabins with panda motifs presented by Chengdu to Paris.
The Chengdu International Finance Square, or Chengdu IFS, and the Paris Saint-Germain-des-Pres Committee signed a partnership agreement in May to focus on art, culture, commerce and tourism.
The two neighborhoods share much in common－both are the local centers of art, culture and business in their cities.
Chengdu, with a population of 16 million, boasts rich investment opportunities and offers an ideal environment, besides delicious food that has spread throughout the country and even the world.
If you are a fan of Ma Po tofu, Kong Pao chicken or hotpot, then Chengdu is responsible.
As Chengdu's core district, Jinjiang is a prosperous business area with a long history and serves as the bellwether of Chengdu's expansion and development.
And, as of now, the award-winning Chengdu IFS is the most sophisticated cosmopolitan city complex in Western China.
Cafe de Flore at Chengdu IFS. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Speaking about the May agreement, Monique Mouroux, the General Secretary of the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Committee, says: "Chengdu is the new fashion, cultural and economic capital of China. It is surprisingly attractive. And its relaxed and elegant lifestyle is very close to the Rive Gauche spirit of Paris.
"This collaboration will allow us to better value the rich cultures of our two peoples."
Meanwhile, through this partnership, the residents of the two cities have been experiencing a special New Year with exotic twists.
So, while the Parisians have their hand-carved 200 kilogram panda who is 3 meters tall, Chengdu has its ongoing "Romantic Rive Gauche, French New Year" celebration, which brought a traditional Paris New Year marketplace to the city, where customers shopped in colorful cabins.
Speaking about his artwork, Orlinski says: "In my 12 years as an artist I have tried to showcase the world wildest animals to humans to help people overcome their fear of the creatures.
"The panda is the treasure of Chinese culture. Its calmness always surprises me, and I want to highlight their strength, softness and wisdom.
"I'm honored to be invited to represent the friendship between two countries and build a bridge between the two famous streets of Saint-Germain-des-Pres and Jinjiang (the neighborhood where Chengdu IFS located)."
Besides the giant panda artwork, panda plush toys can be bought at the market. And the profits go to the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in central Paris.
Speaking about Chengdu's reasons for entering the collaboration, Christina Hau, general manager of Operations, Wharf China Estates Limited, the group behind Chengdu IFS, says: "As a popular destination and Western China's leading urban complex, Chengdu IFS is spearheading the promotion of international fashion and arts－so it was natural for us to partner with the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Committee and the sixth district government of Paris.
(PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
"We hope these cultural events will allow the French people to discover a city which is not known well enough, yet, and has exceptional cultural and economic attractiveness.
"The 1,000-year histories (of the two cities), their delicate balance between fashion and lifestyle, and the parallel stories of Jinjiang and Saint-Germain-des-Pres deserve to be celebrated, and I truly rejoice in this new friendship," she says.
Separately, in November, Chengdu saw the opening of the legendary Cafe de Flore in Chengdu, giving the city a chance to sample French roasted coffee, and experience the Parisian spirit of Rive Gauche－elegance, culture and romance.
The food, the music, the coffee and the scenery, much loved by celebrities, artists, poets and novelists including Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller, has become an instant hit.
Then, for shopping buffs, there's Chengdu IFS' flagship shopping center, which has more than 600 brands, from home and abroad, covering jewelry, watches, fashion garments, kitchenware and high-end stationery.
Antiquity Plaza, as the complex also has an IMAX movie theater and numerous restaurants featuring cuisines from around the globe.
Among the complex's other attractions is a 15-meter high fountain made with 300,000 clear crystals and red and blue French-style lamps.
The New Year crystal fountain is inspired by common street scenes in Paris, where residents enjoy sunbathing, taking pictures or meeting friends.
Chengdu is also working with tenants at its urban complex on parent-child activities and workshops to share the culture of La Rive Gauche.