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Name: Splendid China, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

Like a school project gone mad

The Splendid China theme park is a funky little collection of miniatures, akin to what some crazy old guys have done in their back yards in America, or what kids do for their "history projects."  The miniature Great Wall runs 1.1 kilometers!  In an excellent article entitled "China: Tourism Development and Cultural Policies," Trevor H.B. Sofield and Fung Mei Sarah Li give some background on the park not available to the average tourist:

This theme park opened in September 1989 and features miniatures of the best known scenic spots in China, occupying an area of 3.27 square kilometres. There are 'about one hundred scenic wonders ... which are the epitome of China's long-standing history, brilliant culture, beautiful scenic heritage and rich historical sites' (Splendid China Miniature Scenic Spots brochure 1994).

No memorial to the peasants and workers of ancient China, the park depicts such built heritage as "the world's biggest palace", the Imperial Palace; "the world's largest Buddha", the Le Shan Grand Buddha Statue; 'the world's most splendid building located at the highest land above sea level', the Potala Palace; 'the world's longest rampart', the Great Wall of China; and many more palaces and temples such as the mausoleum of Genghis Khan and the mosque of Emperor Xiang Fei (Splendid China Miniature Scenic Spots brochure 1994). More than 50,000 Lilliputian ceramic figurines 'inhabit' the various 'spots' and again the emphasis is not on the life style of the peasant and worker as Mao would have insisted, but on scenes such as the wedding ceremony of Emperor Guang Xu in the Imperial Palace, a memorial ceremony to Confucius in his family temple, emperors praying for good harvests, an imperial funeral, and astronomer mandarins at work in the world's oldest 'Ancient Star Observatory'.

In addition to the built heritage, there are 12 miniaturised heritage landscapes such as the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River, Mount Taishan and the Yunnan Petrified Forest. There are also eleven ethnic village scenes. These latter depict minority village life with peasants engaged in tilling paddy, fishing, constructing a new dwelling or, in the case of the Mongolian grasslands, festive activities such as archery, wrestling and horse racing.

The theme park is a window into China's history, culture and heritage. Since its opening it has consistently attracted 3 million visitors per year, of whom around 500,000 (about 15 per cent) have been overseas visitors.

The article includes an excellent, thoughtful consideration of how "authentic" such exhibits can be, in terms of post-modern concepts of tourism and Umberto Eco's famous reflections on "hyperrealism."  It also considers the role of such a park in China's political philosophy.  I encourage you to read at least the "Heritage Theme Parks, Shenzhen" section of the article; but the whole piece is worthwhile for those of us who travel in China.

You can also read about some fun my buddy Justin and I had in this blog entry.

Getting there: The China Folk Culture Villages and Splendid China Park are located on Shennan Boulevard in Overseas Chinese Town in the center of Shenzhen.  They are well-served by bus and taxi.
Located near:  China Folk Culture Villages (same 120RMB admission fee as Splendid China), Window of the World, and Happy Valley theme parks.  See also the "Lamasery" within the China Folk Culture Villages.
About the photos:  All photos on this page are copyright 2005 by James Baquet

Gallery

click photo to enlarge

These photos are just a hint of the many wonders to be seen at Splendid China.  There is no description here; I hope that, someday, I'll buy the year's pass (300RMB) and spend more time "studying" the place.

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