Among China’s burgeoning population of new millionaires (their ranks have tripled since 2012, to more than 3.6 million) there is a peculiar appetite for the fusty trappings of European nobility. Chinese real-estate developments with names like Majesty Manor and Top Aristocrat package themselves as enclaves of Old World opulence, their properties complete with moats, replicas of Buckingham Palace gates, and mansions modelled after Versailles. Rolls Royce has begun offering Chinese customers chauffeur training with purchases from its seven-figure Phantom line, and Christie’s has opened a specialized agency to help Chinese buyers purchase wine estates abroad. For Chinese élites who are eager to adopt lifestyles commensurate with their massive wealth, such status symbols lend a recognizable veneer of Western-style aristocracy. (Many in the industry attribute the trend to the immense popularity of “Downton Abbey,” which has given millions of Chinese viewers a window into Edwardian upstairs-downstairs living.)
Who knew they liked Downton Abbey?