Farewell, Rubber Duck!

By Chen Boyuan
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The Summer Palace hosted a farewell ceremony for the giant Rubber Duck on Thursday, in the presence of its creator Florentijn Hofman and movie star Jackie Chan.[Chen Boyuan/China.org.cn]

The Summer Palace hosted a farewell ceremony for the giant Rubber Duck on Thursday, in the presence of its creator Florentijn Hofman and movie star Jackie Chan.[Chen Boyuan/China.org.cn]

The Summer Palace hosted a farewell ceremony for the giant Rubber Duck on Thursday, in the presence of its creator and Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, as well as movie star Jackie Chan.

Visitors to the Summer Palace in Beijing on Thursday bid a fond farewell to the giant floating Rubber Duck, a 26-meter-tall art installation which had been on display at the park's Kunming Lake since Sept. 26.

The Rubber Duck came to the Summer Palace on Sept. 26 during its second leg of its Beijing tour, after completing a 20-day display at Beijing's Garden Expo Park.

Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, dubbed the "father of the rubber duck," appeared at the ceremony along with Chinese kung fu star Jackie Chan, chairman of the Chinese Rubber Duck Fan Club.

Hofman said the Rubber Duck was a symbol of people's childhoods, in which a small rubber duck would float around in the bathtub. He hoped his creation would be evocative of "people's fondest memories" and the giant Rubber Duck world tour could contribute to world peace instead of war.

Chan, who arrived at the lake-side scene in an unexpected manner -- by dragon boat, echoed the notion, but said he was "too old to have a floating duck when he was young," but his son Jaycee Chan, also known by his Chinese name Fang Zuming, did have one.

The Rubber Duck is a present from the Netherlands, Hofman's native country, since the Dutch capital of Amsterdam was chosen as the guest of honor for the 2013 Beijing Design Week, an annual event that invites a foreign city to present the city's design sensibilities to Beijing citizens. "Design Goes Dutch" was this year's theme.

The art installation has immensely boosted the two parks' popularity. The Garden Expo Park received some 1 million visitors during the Rubber Duck's stay, and the number of tourists hit a historical high from Oct. 2 to 5, during China's national day holiday Golden Week (Oct.1 to 7), up to 100,000 per day.

The sudden influx of Rubber Duck fans has helped generate more than 100 million yuan (US$16.3 million) in admission fees for both parks. In the bigger picture, the service sector -- Rubber Duck product sales, restaurants, accommodation and transport -- was among the biggest beneficiaries in the Duck craze.

Fans who have visited the Rubber Duck displayed in Beijing claimed that the duck was "a nostalgic thing," though most of them admitted they did not have one when they were young because it was a typical Western toy, but "would immediately place it in tub water the next time" they take a bath.

Yang Chi, a Beijing resident who visited the Rubber Duck twice during its stay at the Summer Palace, took it one step further. "The cute-looking big toy reflects the city-dwellers' desire for inner peace amid gratuitousness," she said, adding how the media publicity that claimed the "duck bears an international trend" was among the reasons that brought people to visit it.

Yet those who did not care much for the man-made, portable attraction said the psychology of conformability -- following the trend -- was to blame for the overly packed parks.

"There were too many people. Even if we wanted to go, we barely could," said Zhang Shaohua (aka. Kevin), a contract advertiser for a national English-language newspaper. He said that "if they wish to have it represent liberty," the Rubber Duck should be set free onto the open sea rather than being chained down to float in a lake.

Both Beijing parks that hosted the Rubber Duck are reportedly the only places in the world that demanded an entrance fee to see the Duck, whereas elsewhere in the world, Hofman's Rubber Duck was always placed in open waters.

Like it or not, according to the Summer Palace park authorities, the inflatable duck will be deflated and moved on Sunday, one day after the originally planned date of Oct. 26, in a bid to make the installation available to more fans.

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