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A world as wonky as Wonka

China's first chocolate-themed park is staging family-friendly events to offer a sweet summer vacation for children. It offers much of Willy Wonka's candy land depicted in the seminal children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The bulk of the more than 300,000-square-meter Shanghai Chocolate Happy Land is built with eight renovated 2010 Shanghai World Expo pavilions. It opened in January. The park proffers exhibitions, performances, chocolate tastings and interactive DIY activities.

The buildings are filled with large chocolate sculptures. They must be kept between 20 C and 25 C, and the humidity must remain between 40 to 50 percent to prevent melting, park manager Alex Fang says.

This summer, the park is hosting a "sweetest family" contest involving funny games.

Every half hour, there's a "candy grab" competition, in which contestants use chopsticks to nab round chocolates and place them in a distant bowl.

There are also chocolate castle-building contests in the Children's Fairytale Land, which features chocolate likenesses of such characters as those from Garfield, Hello Kitty and Transformers.

Dads act as porters to move bricks, while moms and kids construct castles. The winners build the tallest and most stable edifice.

Other competitions include chocolate weightlifting and DIY baking. The top prize is free entrance for a year.

Life-sized chocolate terracotta warriors and chariots, and a chocolate Forbidden City that took six months to create, are the highlights at the 1,000-sq-m 5,000 Years of China Pavilion.

Sweet Eden, which is designed like the alien planet in the movie Avatar, has the world's largest chocolate waterfall and the longest chocolate river. It looks like Charlie's chocolate factory at night, with iridescent jellyfish and chocolate mushrooms. Elves dressed like aliens stand alongside the winding pathway.

A 400-sq-m castle made of 160 tons of chocolate is perhaps the park's biggest attraction, in every sense of the word.

It features chocolate sculptures of some of the world's most famous structures and artworks.

There are likenesses of some of the most famous buildings and artworks - Winged Glory, David, Venus and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

It also displays an 8-meter-high "bread-painting" version of The Mona Lisa, created with 2,900 white toast slices.

The site also features a desert street, proffering famous brands' goodies.

"All the chocolate displays are edible but would taste weird because we change some of the ingredients," Fang says.

He advises against nibbling the exhibits.

"Their creation required tremendous work and patience."