Please excuse the overly obvious title. But sometimes there just seems to be no choice.
There’s a Chinese movie called 世界 (Shijie – The World) which I’m rather fond of. Ironically while it has played international film festivals and got positive reviews from foreign critics, I’ve yet to find a Chinese person who had even heard of it. I saw it in a DVD shop a long time ago and bought it out of curiosity. After I watched it, I’ve loaned it out to Chinese friends at every opportunity. They mostly like it, though its ending is not exactly upbeat, and most of them seem to prefer happy endings. Maybe that’s why the movie hasn’t caught on at home.
I bring this up as an explanation of why I wanted to visit a Beijing sight that very few foreigners care to see. In the southwest part of the city is a park called 世界公园 (Shijie Gongyuan – World Park) where there are miniature reconstructions of famous buildings, monuments, and objects from around the world. The movie is about a group of poor people from Shanxi province who come to Beijing looking for work, and some of them end up working at this park. Much of the movie is set there, and I wanted to compare reality to what I saw on film.
Getting there is not exactly easy. The subway system does not cover this part of the city, so a friend and I took the subway to the closest station and took a bus from there. It was a double-decker bus. Between the subway and the bus it took over two hours to get there, but only cost a few kuai.
The entrance is all Disney-castle-like. An adult ticket costs Ұ65 (US$9.50). It was a hot, hazy day.
Just inside is 意大利台地园 (Yidali Taidi Yuan – Italian Terrace Garden) where there are copies of famous European sculptures. When we went in, there was an elephant available for photo opportunities. For a small fee you can get up on the elephant and have your picture taken.
Up at the top terrace are the two most famous statues: Venus de Milo and David. No fee for picture taking here.
The middle part of the park, and the most popular, features European icons. This one is St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna (or “St. Stephan” as it is on the sign here).
And how about Neuschwannstein Castle?
And here is one of the symbols of Paris.
Seen from this angle it almost looks real, huh?
But no, it’s 1/10 the size of the original. In the movie, the characters often take an elevator up to the observation deck and have a lunch break, but as you can tell, that’s not really possible here (there is no elevator). It’s a kind of “magic realist” touch to the film, I guess, emphasizing the whole fantasy nature of the characters’ situations (coming here in search of a dream).
And here we have The Little Mermaid (called “Maid of the Sea” on her sign) set across the water from Manhattan, complete with the World Trade Center Towers. They are among many buildings for which the original no longer exists.
And off to one side of Europe is North America, just like in real life.
That’s supposed to be the Golden Gate Bridge and I’d say it’s a lot smaller than 1/10, though the sign doesn’t say what its scale is. The rocks behind it are labeled “The Grand Canyon” but I have no idea what part of it they are supposed to be.
Up the path from New York we get to Washington D.C. Here you see the Lincoln and Washington Memorials as well as another feature of World Park. You can rent costumes and have your picture taken as a Korean lady in the American capital. They also have Japanese, various traditional Chinese styles, and fancy European Renaissance clothes.
More of Washington, and then south to Mexico.
Somehow we missed the rest of Europe (like the Colosseum) and ended up in Egypt.
Of course you can’t have pyramids without camels.
And speaking of buildings that no longer exist...
...here’s the legendary Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria.
They’ve also got a Trojan Horse which you can climb inside.
And the ruins of Persepolis.
Moving along from the Middle East you come to Asia, of course.
From the Taj Mahal to Angkor Wat is only a few steps.
Australia gets two entries, both from Sydney.
And as you all know, from Sydney to Easter Island is an easy stroll.
By a quirk of the park’s geography, Russia ended up last on the tour.
This is Moscow’s Red Square, with Lenin’s Tomb, the Kremlin, and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
That concludes the educational portion of the program, though I do want to back up and show one of the explanatory signs as an example of the educational value of this park.
I’m sure many people in England will be astonished to learn that Wales is “on the other side of the ocean” from them.
This is running a bit long, so I’ll wrap up The World in a separate post. What happened next was not educational, and involved crocodiles and elephants.