New Delhi, Jan 28 (ANI): Tourism bureau officials in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, have clarified that the renaming of the region's mountain peaks were not inspired by the success of 'Avatar'.
The officials faced huge criticism after it was reported that they changed the mountains' name after the 'Hallelujah Mountain' featured in James Cameron's sci-fi spectacle.
"The civil spontaneous action to rename the peak just shows that Zhangjiajie is protecting its own authority and special value as a World Natural Heritage," said Ding Yunyong, director of the city's tourism bureau.
Officials at the Yuanjiajie part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in Zhangjiajie on Monday changed the name of the 'South Pillar of the Heaven' (also called the "Pillar between Heaven and Earth") to 'Hallelujah Mountain'.
The quartz sandstone pillar is strikingly similar to the ones seen in the Hallelujah Mountains in the blockbuster 'Avatar'.
However, the renaming has drawn intense criticism online, reports the China Daily.
The 'South Pillar of the Heaven', about 150 meters above the ground at a height of 1,074 meters above sea level, is a famous scenic attraction.
During a recent visit to China, the film's director, James Cameron, said the floating peaks were modeled after Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province.
However, Deng Daoli, a local resident who has worked at the Wulingyuan national park for years, pointed out the Huangshan mountains are actually granite, and that the photographs seemed to show that the model for the 'Avatar' mountains was the Zhangjiajie pillars.
An official with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development regarded the issue as a mere hype.
"It's nothing but sensationalization," said Li Rusheng, deputy director of the Urban Construction Department of the ministry, at a press conference on Tuesday.
Ding said that the local residents and the scenic management decided to label the peak as the Hallelujah in an effort to tell the truth that Zhangjiajie is the prototype of the mountains in 'Avatar'.
"They are using the facts to protect our mountains' authority and promote the tourism brand. It is definitely not giving up our cultural roots for blind faith in a foreign movie," he said. (ANI)