About the Kingdom of the Little People

November 2015: China is a huge ancient country full of wonder and ever since living in Shaghai for a summer in 1995, my goal has always been to see as much of it as possible.  One reason why I love China, is because it is a place that definitely pushes cultural norms. One such place in China that pushed these norms and would never exist in the USA or in most places of the world, is the Kingdom of the Little People in the souther Chinese city of Kunming, a theme park owned by a Chinese millionaire with a fairy tale like atmosphere designed to showcase people that are dwarfs, who are no taller than 51 inches tall or roughly 4 feet tall.  The park employs hundreds of dwarfs, who all live on site and are portrayed to live in small colorful mushroom shaped houses. Although, they supposedly only do so for show. The dwarfs are dressed in mideivel King Arthur Camelotish outfits. Some are dressed as knights, princesses, jesters, and there is even a king equipped with Top Gun like aviator sunglasses. The kingdom must be seen to be believed. Some of the main attractions consist of shows involving dancing, singing, tight rope walking, as well  motorcycle shows on miniature bikes.

The kingdom and it’s human zoo like atmosphere have been ridiculed by human rights groups but the Chinese millionaire that owns the park insists that the park is not designed to humiliate the little people that live there. Instead the owner claims the park is meant to help them by providing them a community and employement. In China, with its one child per family policy, dwarfs are often abandoned by their parents and suffere discrimination and un-employmenet.

Location of Kunming

Enroute to the Maldives and Southern India, I deliberately planned a two day stop-over into our itinerary to include Kunming, so that we could visit the Kingdom of the Little People. Paula and I stayed in a modest guesthouse inside the city. It was the kind of place, common in China, English speakers are non-existent. So, we used Google translate to communicate. We arranged transport to the Kingdon of the Little People, which was situated an hour or so outside of Kunming, through the Chinese couple that owned the guesthouse, where we stayed. I will never forget their reaction when we explained to them that we wanted to visit a kingdom of little people. They giggled in disbelief. They had never heard of such a place, but they were so interested in it that they decided to drive us themselves and even go into the theme park with.

Fairy Tale Murals

Disneylike Castle

The weirdness began the moment we arrived at the Kingdom of the Little People. We were greeted by fairy tale themed billboards with dwarfs dressed in medieval outfits. There was a Disney like castle on top of a hill looming over the entrance gate but unlike Disneyland, there were hardly any visitors. Aside from only a dozen or so other Chinese tourists, the park was largely void of any visitors. We purchased our ticket for roughly 5 USD at the entrance gate from a little person along with our Chinese hosts who were taking far more photos of everything than I was, and we proceeded into the park with the joy and enchantment that a small child would have when actually entering the world of Disney and meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time.

Dinasaurs

As a combo-package to the little people that seemed to be the main tourist attraction in the park, there were replica dinosaursand a butterfly exhibit. We skipped the butterflies and dinosaurs and went straight for other attractions in the park, such as the archery exhibit. There were also lots of food stands but no funnel cakes, foot long hot dogs, burgers and other fast food items found in western theme parks, but instant rice bowls, and other various noodle dishes and Chinese Tsingtao beer. 

What kind of midievel kingdom doesn’t have dragons

Houses of the Little People

We walked among the mushroom houses, some of which were occupied by little people who appeared to be relaxing. Some Chinese visitors would pose with them for a selfie. We did not since we had mixed feelings about the experience and since we were trying to avoid any additional exploitation of the park employees, we didn’t take any photos with them. But with this said on the most part, the employees appeared happy, joking with one another and even playing with children, so to say that the park exploites them may not be a fair assessment.

Paula in front of one of the Houses

The park had a strange feeling to it. There were few visitors, and more little people employees than visitors. I wasn’t sure if the park had plans to make money because based on what I was observing, I couldn’t imagine how it could. Supposedly, the owner had grand plans to promote it to attract more visitors and to expand its attractions. It would be interesting to see how this all pans out for the owner in the future. 

Paula in the archery exhibit

Tight rope walking

Park employee playing with a curious chinese child

The main attraction of the park is the dance show. The dwarf king and his kingdom of dancers performed to songs ranging from the Olympics theme song, Metalica and to the Korean pop song, Gagnam Style. 

Behold the King

Dance Performance

Butterfly Girl Performance

Opening Performance to the Olympics Theme Song

A few hours at the Kingdom of the Little People was as much as any of us could handle and it was time to move on. It was interesting and bizarre and maybe even borderline un-comfortable. But if the little people that live there are happy and free to come and go, which supposedly they are, then who am I to judge. 

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