‘Kingdom of Little People’: China’s ‘Dwarf Empire’ spurs controversy, ethical concerns

The £11 million project, initiated in 2009, houses over 150 individuals with dwarfism

The ‘Kingdom of Little People’ only employs people under 4ft3in.—Alamy

China’s controversial “Dwarf Empire,” known as the “Kingdom of Little People,” has become a unique yet contentious tourist destination in the Yunnan province.

The £11 million project, initiated in 2009, houses over 150 individuals with dwarfism who perform daily shows for visitors. Situated an hour’s drive east of Kunming, the park features castles, amphitheatres, and even replicates The Shire from Lord of the Rings.

The site has drawn plenty of criticism over its possible exploitation of those with dwarfism.—AFP
The site has drawn plenty of criticism over its possible exploitation of those with dwarfism.—AFP

The unconventional community has created a tight-knit environment, complete with Dr. Seuss-style houses, mushroom roofs, and a restaurant inside an old passenger plane.

For an entrance fee of £11, tourists can witness a variety of eccentric shows, including parodies of Swan Lake, medieval battle scenes, and drag queen performances.

Around 150 people with short stature live and work in its grounds.— Alamy
Around 150 people with short stature live and work in its grounds.— Alamy

The theme park, conceived by Chinese real estate mogul Chen Mingjing, aims to provide a haven for people with dwarfism, offering employment and a supportive community.

However, since its opening, ethical concerns have been raised, with advocacy groups likening it to a “zoo” and emphasising its potential to reinforce prejudice.

Despite criticisms, the park has provided a unique space for its residents, where they not only earn a monthly salary but also find love and friendship.

While workers face living conditions in shared rooms on-site, some view the Dwarf Empire as a place where they can be themselves and form meaningful connections.

Chen envisions expanding the site to 13,000 acres, incorporating rides, guest cabins, and a 230ft tall performance hall, employing 1,000 workers with dwarfism.

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1: https://www.geo.tv/latest/522643-kingdom-of-little-people-chinas-dwarf-empire-spurs-controversy-ethical-concerns

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