Barcelona shares its 'dragon' with Shanghai World Expo

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The Independent Online

Barcelona has given Shanghai a replica of the statute of Drac, a dragon-like creature that symbolizes the Spanish port city, for next year's World Expo in the Chinese metropolis, local officials said Monday.

The copy of the tiled mosaic creation by famed Catalan sculptor Antoni Gaudi will remain on display in China's largest city and its economic capital after the six-month-long event wraps up on October 31.

Barcelona-based bank La Caixa, which owns 9.9 percent of Hong Kong's Bank of East Asia, is footing the bill for the replica "to establish even stronger ties between China and Catalonia," it said in a statement.

It opened an office in Beijing in 2006 and has applied to set up an office in Shanghai to expand its global business.

Chinese authorities have set aside an area twice the size of Monaco for the expo, which is expected to attract 70 million visitors - 95 percent of them domestic - to the bustling financial center starting May 1 of next year.

The original statute of Drac lies at the entrance to Gaudi's Guell Park in Barcelona which includes a long serpentine bench decorated with the artist's signature tile mosaic as well as a few gingerbread house-like homes.

The park is a top tourist attraction in a city full of works by the artist, most notably the eccentric Sagrada Familia church he left unfinished after he was hit and killed by a tram in 1926.