Wednesday, August 19, 2015

China Has a Dwarf Amusement Park (37 Pics)

The Kingdom Of Little People is not some Disney-inspired place dedicated to "Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs," it's an actual amusement park in southwestern China that is completely staffed by little people, who perform songs and dances for guests. After opening in 2009, the park has received a lot of media attention, most of it negative. For a Westerner even the idea of the park sounds oppressive and exploitive. But the reaction from the actual little people who live and work there may surprise you. 

In 2009, The World Eco Garden of Butterflies and the Dwarf Empire, also known as the Dwarf Empire or Kingdom Of The Little People, opened its doors to gawking tourists near the southern Chinese city of Kunming. 

The $14 million project was built by Chinese entrepreneur and real estate businessmen Chen Mingjing.

Mingjing envisioned a fantastical amusement park, which would give people with dwarfism an opportunity to work.
The amusement offers the nearly 100 dwarfs that work there room and board in mushroom looking homes that are specifically tailored to their size. They are also paid between $160 to $480 a month--that's about what a college graduate would make in that same area of China.
In order to even work in this twisted amusement park, they must be a 4 feet 3 inches tall or under. Anything above just won't cut it.

“There are only three requirements to work here. No infectious diseases, no one older than 50, and no one taller than 4 feet 3 inches,” Mingjing told ABC's Nightline in 2009 shortly after the park opened. 
At 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. everyday the little people perform for visitors. The performers wear ridiculous and at time degrading costumes, such as ballet tutus on the men. The dwarfs performances range from singing and dancing to acrobatics. A popular performance is their rendition of "Swan Lake." 
If you think that Dwarf Empire is not just bizarre, but exploitive and eerily resembles a Victorian freak show, you're not alone.

The park has come under fire from human rights groups like Handicap International and Little People of America. The activists have decried that the amusement park is exploitive and enforces negative stereotypes.

“What is the difference between it and a zoo?” a spokesman for Little People of America asked The New York Times.
But the park creator Mingjing says that the Kingdom Of The Little People is not exploitive at all and provides people, who would otherwise be unemployed, with work, meaningful purpose, and independence.
Surprisingly, some of the performers agree.

One performer told Vice News that before she came to The Kingdom Of The Little People she didn't know that there were other people out there like her.

Another performer, who once was a graphic designer, told Vice News that before he game to the park he was constantly mocked and ridiculed.
People with disabilities in China face great discrimination daily. A 2013 report by the Human Rights Watch found that 40 percent of people with disabilities in China are illiterate often because of the discrimination they face. 
“Children with disabilities have the right to attend regular schools like all other children, and are entitled to support for their particular learning needs. But instead, some schools fail – or simply refuse – to provide these students what they need,”said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
This park is not yet very profitable, but Mingjing hopes that it will became a popular attraction for both Chinese and international tourists. They offer English lessons for their performers and hope to one day employ 1,000 dwarfs. 

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