Friday, November 02, 2007

Cheesy China

About a month ago we visited Splendid China and the Folk Culture Village here in Shenzhen. This is one of the "best" amusement parks in China and is Shenzhen's attempt at drawing tourists. Unlike other cities in China, Shenzhen is extremely young (not even 30 years old) and does not have a lot of cultural/historical significance. Therefore, there are plenty of amusement parks like this one and Window of the World just one subway stop down the line. Almost every park in the city is a replica of something else (see OCT East, Portofino, etc.).
Splendid China is home to all of China's greatest tourist attractions. How do they fit them here you ask? Of course, they're all miniature. But, they are not all built to the same scale and there is no geography (which explains why the Great Wall is so close to the Potala Palace. Many of the sites also are not constructed all that well--much like the rest of the city, it was not built to last the next hundred years. Many parts of the miniatures are damaged or missing--mostly the little people (it's not difficult to see where they once were).I never realized before how far south the Great Wall wound. It comes really close the city. Personally, I like the real thing much better. I'm still curious how many migrant workers were lost while constructing the miniature Wall.
Every wonder how the Mongols invaded China? I think it had something to do with the path the Chinese left through the Wall.
This is Du Fu's Thatched Cottage in Chengdu. Last time I was there I remember seeing much more than this. You can see for yourself.
There is also a Forbidden City, but it is missing the portrait of Chairman Mao and Tiananmen Square isn't very impressive (no mausoleum for Mao either). What is surprisingly absent from the park is anything having to do with Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan. I guess they don't view those places as "splendid" enough to be part of China.

The Folk Culture Village wasn't as cheesy as Splendid China. It was showcasing some of the 56 ethnic minorities through "cultural" shows to educate the public. Most of the shows were highly choreographed song and dance numbers performed by smiling people who mostly didn't look too enthusiastic. Almost all of the shows had to do with how the minorities choose their mates. The others were about the special skills that only those minorities possess. The Uighurs were quite nice to talk with and told us about a Xinjiang restaurant nearby that we still need to try.

I found it a little unsettling that the cultural village had this mosque. The idea of having a mosque didn't bother me--I thought they might have some religious education there. What did bother me was the fact that it was a gift shop. I didn't even bother going inside.

The best cultural show was for the Mongolians. It was a fake horse battle. There was an excessively loud announcer who narrated the story of the Mongolians invading China (I think). It was complete with sound effects provided by the voice of the announcer. I couldn't stop laughing.
Fortunately, we went on an off weekend prior to the holiday and the park wasn't crowded. There were, however, enough Chinese tourists taking photos in places they weren't supposed to be--we heard the security guards yelling at people to not touch the exhibits and watched the people ignore the commands (much like the people at the Temple of Heaven).
The last thought that I had with J. a few days after our visit was the same idea as that of another foreigner with whom we worked last year--dress up as Godzilla and go walking through Splendid China, terrorizing the little people in the miniature attractions. Does anyone know where we can get a Godzilla costume in Shenzhen or Hong Kong?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what an informative read, my friend.I enjoy seeing China through you eyes and your great camera> :)