A Chinese museum has turned its beady eye on the world's great works of art, writes Rod Pascoe.
If Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or Rodin could visit the Teddy Bear Museum on Hainan Island in China, they'd surely laugh to see how their famous works have been interpreted.
Some of the greatest paintings and sculptures in history have been reimagined, with teddy bears taking the place of characters that have stayed in the memories of generations of art lovers.
Granted, it's impossible to get the smile of the Mona Lisa just right when the woman depicted is a cuddly bear, set out from the canvas in cloth, rather than a Florentine merchant's wife.
And the sight of teddies replacing the Virgin Mary and the crucified Christ in the Pieta takes some getting used to. You do have to wonder, too, how much thinking could be going on in the head of the marble teddy in The Thinker.
The museum is part of the brand-new Centreville outdoor mall near Haikou, the capital of Hainan, China's only tropical province. The sprawling retail centre, with three towering major-brand hotels attached, is part of the humungous Mission Hills development, spread over 23sq km.
This includes the ultra-luxury Mission Hills hotel - which has become known around the world for its 10 golf courses and thermal spa resort and a Movie World-type attraction. A Wet 'n' Wild water-fun park will soon be added.
The teddy bear attraction's theme, "One belt, one road", tilts at the strategy of Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote international trade. Acknowledging the Silk Road that first linked China with the outside world, numerous displays of teddies in traditional costume are set against scenes from major hubs on the route.
Starting at the Great Wall, the journey takes in Xian (home of the terracotta warriors) and the "Stans" - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - and goes all the way out to Istanbul, Moscow, Athens, Rotterdam, Duisburg (Germany) and Venice.
In keeping with Xi's policy, the 21st-century "Maritime Silk Road" extends to Nairobi, Colombo, Jakarta and Hanoi. And it all ends up back at Haikou.
The museum is intended not only to entertain young visitors but also to excite and educate them about the world, and you can see from the look of delight and awe on their faces that it does the job well.
From the moment the King of Rock 'n' Roll - Elvis - has greeted them at the entrance, the lessons begin. Each of the geographical displays presents information on the history, culture, food, tourist attractions and famous sons and daughters of the city or region depicted.
Further on, the museum presents the history of teddy bears, which I discovered began not with US President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, as I had always thought, but with a little wheelchair-bound German girl called Margarete Steiff. Her poliomyelitis prevented her from playing outside with other kids, so she took up sewing toys to pass the time. She later founded a toy-making company that created the first bear, in 1902. (Later that year, a New York sweet-shop owner - inspired by the famous incident involving Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a tied-up American black bear - put a stuffed bear in his shop window and called it "Teddy".)
There's also a display of some of the oldest teddy bears still in existence, including "Gerard", aged 111. An accompanying photo shows his original owner, a little girl.
I particularly liked the displays showing teddies "in character", including Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, golfers and military figures. The one that especially appealed to me was Johnny Depp in the movie Edward Scissorhands, because that was the first film I ever saw with my firstborn, Adam, now aged 28.
Even to a 63-year-old Kiwi whose kids reckon he's entering his second childhood, it was all a huge delight. I enjoyed it so much I went back a second time.
The Teddy Bear Museum is at Mission Hills Centreville Mall in Haikou on Hainan Island, China. See
for deals for Hainan.
Getting there: Cathay Pacific, with sister airline Dragonair, flies from Auckland to Hainan.