theme parks

theme parks
A theme park integrates exhibits, performance and commerce into a built environment. Theme parks have become a significant cultural industry in the Chinese economy. Since the establishment of the first modern theme park, Splendid China, in 1989, a’theme park’ (zhuti gongyuan) fever has emerged and more than 300 amusement and theme parks have been constructed. As most of the theme parks continue to upgrade their facilities, new theme parks are being established all over China each year. The best-known and most successful theme parks in China are those that focus on cultural displays. Examples include: Splendid China, China Folk Culture Villages, and Window on the World, all in Shenzhen, the Yuanming Xinyuan in Zhuhai, the World Park and the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park in Beijing, the World Landscape Park and the Wonderland of the Southwest in Chengdu, and Yunnan Nationalities Villages in Kunming.
These parks generally focus on three leitmotifs. The first of these are represented by those parks featuring stories, legends and folk tales such as Monkey King’s Journey to the West and The Dream of the Red Chamber. The second features notable world sites, displaying selected countries and cultures in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and the South Pacific, including architecture, scenic spots, landmarks and government buildings. Architecture such as Notre Dame and the Egyptian pyramids, tourist spots such as the Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, urban landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and New York’s Manhattan, governmental buildings such as the Kremlin in Moscow and the White House in Washington, DC, and others such as African tribal villages and Maori houses. The third showcases ethnic minorities in China, who are used to represent the culturally diverse but politically unified Chinese nation.
Although the popularity of Chinese theme parks is a recent phenomenon, theme parks as cultural forms do have historical roots in China.
The original Yuanming Yuan, built from 1709 to 1744 and destroyed by British and French soldiers in 1860, may be seen as one of the earliest prototypes of the modern theme park, at least a hundred years before the Scandinavian ‘folk museum’ model of the late nineteenth century. The park integrated nature (gardens with pools, fountains, paths and hills), architecture (both traditional Chinese and European styles), displays (artifacts from China and other countries) and performances of daily life, all within a built retail urban environment linked to festivals (particularly the Lantern Festival). In Beijing during the early part of the twentieth century, the New World and South City Amusement Parks offered entertainment, performances and games in connection with market days and temple fairs. In Shanghai, the Great World (1916–49) was the most influential and popular amusement centre and included variety shows, food shops and cinemas. Chinese theme parks are now part of the international tourist industry. China Travel Service (Holdings) Hong Kong Limited, a Chinese state-owned transnational corporation, established Splendid China in Florida in 1993. Through participation in international tourism, Chinese companies have also learned from theme parks in other countries.
Stanley, Nick and Siu, King Chung (1995). ‘Representing the Past as the Future: The Shenzhen Chinese Folk Culture Villages and the Making of Chinese Identity’. Journal of Museum Ethnography 7:25–40.
Ren, Hai (1998). ‘Economies of Culture: Theme Parks, Museums, and Capital Accumulation in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan’. PhD diss., University of Washington.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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