Government officials in Hunan province in southern China have renamed a local mountain after a mountain in the Avatar movie, which they claim was based on the scenic spot.

The Southern Sky Column in Zhangjiajie was formally named Avatar Hallelujah Mountain at a ceremony late last month.

Locals say the mountain, below left, was the inspiration for the Hallelujah Mountains, below right, in Pandora, the fictional world of the 3D blockbuster. They claim a Hollywood photographer came to the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in 2008 and took photos which later formed the basis of the animated floating mountains in the movie.

And that’s just one way that Zhangjiajie is seeking to capitalise on the film, which has already become the most successful movie ever at the Chinese box office. They have also adopted the slogan, ‘Pandora is far by Zhangjiajie is near’, on their official website, and guided tours have sprung up offering to take tourists to the spots believed to have inspired the film.

However, in the wake of criticism from some quarters in China, tourism officials have already sought to play down their effforts. “We just put a poster of two pictures comparing ‘South Sky Pillar’ with ‘Hallelujah Mountain’ on the mountain to show people evidence that the Avatar mountain originated here,” said Ding Yunyong, head of the city’s tourism department. “It is a source of pride to Zhangjiajie.”

Another official, Song Zhiguang, pointed out that the mountain still retained its original name: “We only added a way to call the mountain. The previous name is not abolished.”

Avatar, which traces the plight of the fictional N’avi people who are under threat from a mining operation, has been showing at more than 2,500 screens across China and has already made at least $80m at the box office. The 3D version has proved much more popular than the 2D version, which many cinemas have now stopped showing to make way for domestic holiday movies associated with the upcoming Chinese New Year.

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Bill Lehane
Bill Lehane, 28, is a journalist and freelance writer from Dublin, Ireland. He recently returned from six months working as a teacher in east China, which gave him a chance to experience many of the wide, weird and wacky sights that make up daily life in the Middle Kingdom. However, he did not succeed in teaching the local teenagers anything whatsoever: they still love Michael Jackson, KFC and themselves. More at
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