Pieces of Britain's Expo pavilion to be auctioned online

Thousands of the clear rods that make up Britain's award-winning pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai will be sold on a Chinese e-commerce site to raise money for charity, officials said Monday.

The 7.5 metre- (24 feet-) long acrylic rods, which give the pavilion a dandelion-like appearance, will be cut down and sold on Taobao.com to raise money for children with cerebral palsy, a spokeswoman for the website said.

"'Dandelion' is the UK Pavilion's nickname and through Taobao, we hope this dandelion will be dispersed widely to spread British blessings, friendship and culture throughout China," Carma Elliot, the pavilion's commissioner-general, said in a statement.

The auction begins at 10:00 am (0200 GMT) on Thursday, with proceeds going to the Shanghai CereCare Wellness Centre, which offers physiotherapy and education to young children suffering from cerebral palsy, Taobao said.

British designer Thomas Heatherwick's six-storey, quivering, cube-like structure, won the Royal Institute of British Architects' Lubetkin Prize in June, but under Expo rules it must be dismantled after the six-month event.

The pavilion is called the "Seed Cathedral" because each of its 60,000 rods contains a seed from the Royal Botanical Garden's Millennium Seed Bank in London, which seeks to preserve plant life threatened with extinction.

Buyers will receive the end of the rod that contains the seed, Justine Chao, a spokeswoman for Taobao's parent company, told AFP, adding it had yet to be decided how many rods would be sold at auction.

In a separate statement, the pavilion said 20,000 of the rods would be donated to the Kunming Institute of Botany in southwestern China, the region where many of the seeds were originally collected.

A number will also be given to the Shanghai Botanical Garden to support its educational programmes, the statement added.

Another set of rods will be donated to Chinese schools along with teachers' packs to help students learn about biodiversity, the statement said.

More than 70 million people, mostly Chinese, have visited the six-month Expo in Shanghai, which concludes on Sunday.

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