Chocolate town in Zhejiang serves up sweet life
Aficion Chocolate Town sprang up in Jiashan county of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Son's labor of love savors success with support of his father.
Colorful windmills slowly rotating on the lawn, castle-like factory buildings amid a sea of flowers and the aroma of sweet chocolate permeating the air … Visitors might well think they've arrived at Charlie's chocolate factory.
They've actually reached Aficion Chocolate Town in Jiashan county, Zhejiang province. With an investment of some 900 million yuan($132.92 million), the 29-hectare resort town is one of the largest of its kind in Asia, featuring everything chocolate since 2014.
Couples can host chocolate-themed wedding ceremonies, children can learn how to design with chocolate and tourists can learn all about the process of chocolate production,along with the history and culture of the confection, in a 156-meter glass passageway that provides a view of the town's world-class production line in operation.
They can even get a taste of the tropics in a small forest in which tropical cocoa trees and coffee beans are grown in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences.
"I have been in love with chocolate since I was very little," said Mo Xuefeng, founder of the chocolate town."My father gave me my first chocolate when I was in kindergarten, and the feeling was simply indescribable."
As Mo grew up, his passion for chocolate intensified. In 2010, he enrolled at Boston University and was pursuing a master's degree in finance when the idea of setting up a chocolate-themed tourist town took root.
"While abroad, I became more interested in the chocolate culture of other countries, as well as its history and effects," Mo said.
At the time, he visited all the chocolate factories and theme parks in the United States, as well as major chocolate museums in Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany,and cocoa plantations in Mexico.
"Increasingly, I found that chocolate is not only just a kind of food but also a way of life," he said. To him,chocolate as both treat and tourist attraction is more an embodiment of people's yearning for a better life. He hoped to bring the sweetness of life to more Chinese people.
Born in Miujia village in Dayun township, where the chocolate town is located, Mo, 37, was supposed to take over his father's business when he finished his graduate studies in Boston.
"Naturally, he expected me to join him and continue what he had worked very hard to achieve," Mo said.
A successful businessman running a leading company in the new materials industry, Mo's father didn't shoot down the chocolaty idea when Mo first broached it. Instead, he encouraged Mo to improve the business proposal and personally went on a field trip to more than a dozen chocolate factories in the United States and Europe before giving the nod.
Importing some of the world's most advanced production equipment from Switzerland, Mo eventually chose his hometown as the place to build his chocolate dream.