Nostalgia has become an important aspect of culture-led urban regeneration in advanced cities. Chinese cities have also experienced this tendency because many local states have used nostalgia as an instrument to brand their cities and promote business opportunities. However, culture-led regeneration has resulted in the dilemma of cultural commodification and branding bubbles, as this approach is subordinate to capital circulation and property revitalization. We translate the Marxist idea of monopoly rent proposed by David Harvey into culture-led regeneration by focusing on the influence of urban nostalgia on the production of the built environment and place distinctiveness for capital accumulation. Against the background of national capital in the Republic of China and its current fervor for culture-led regeneration in what is known as the ‘Republican style’, in this article we explore the case of Nanjing 1912 to examine how urban cultural monopoly rent is produced through the project, and scrutinize its dilemma of over-replication. Although nostalgia is associated with culture, creativity and history, Nanjing 1912’s regeneration is underpinned by economic revenue and by investors experiencing branding bubbles as they tried to upscale the 1912 brand to Nanjing and its neighboring cities.