I don't know if you have heard of this place. It's somewhere in Haikou. A village only with people with short statures. Pay the entrance fee and you can watch these people perform.
When I first heard this I pictured myself obscure freak shows from a hundred years back. I ended up having a fight with my Chinese family about it. Let me quote what my mother in law said
"They can't work anywhere, they are disabled people, so we have a village for them to live and be happy in. No one would hire a dwarf. In China we have villages like this for all kinds of people, like fat people, disabled people. This way they can get a steady income every month since people come and see them perform."
I really didn't know what to say to this... I for one thought it was completely outrageous that anyone with some kind of disability can't get a job. Then again women who has children can't get jobs either. I might have a "bad China day" but after 3 years in China, China keeps on surprising me with completely insane ways of dealing with "problems".
What do you guys think? Is this kind of place completely outrageous and inhumane or should we beleive the Chinese propaganda saying that "They are happy like never before inside this compund"
Guy, I share your disbelief but there is no point in bringing Western sensibilities into China and trying to view them in western light.
Having a large population is a double edge-sword. On the one hand you have a lot of man power, hence the manufacturing dominated economy in China. On the other, how do you handle the percentage of the population that can not contribute to society.
Place yourself in the shoes of typical Chinese employer. For every 1 job posting you have 100+ candidates to choose from. Would you pick dwarf, pregnant teens, wheelchair bound, etc? Due to the number of applicants, employers routinely use various criterion to get down to a manageable list to people to interview. The sales reps that sells cellphone are asked if they achieved level-4 English proficiency on their application even though they would probably never come into contact with foreigners, and as if every foreigner in China speaks English.
It's a simple case of supply and demand. There are surplus unskilled labor than there is demand. When you buy fruit do you routinely pick the bruised and partially rotted fruit or do you pick the best looking one?
We might feel aghast at treating humans this way but this is the best way the Chinese government can deal with the situation right now. It's a matter of volume, so your mother-in-law is correct in that these people probably will have a hard time finding work.
Go back a hundred years or so in our culture and we will see that we did the same thing a la the freakshows and the circus.
So, don't argue with it...Turn the other way when you see things like this unless you want to take on politics and become a social activist. Look into joining an NGO perhaps.
I've thought of the same things as you mentioned Tonyaod. Just can't get used to some things in this country though. Double-edged sword or not, the populationproblem is really a huge problem in this country. It changes peoples atitudes too. My old employer didn't seem to care if a Chinese employee left or not because "There are thousands more out there..." leaving out the fact that we will never have experienced personal.
I am not too outraged by the fact that such a place exists I am just constantly astonished by the Chinese lack of interest in change and constantly blaming everything bad or wrong on the same things. "Culture is different", "Too many people." and "How can thousands of years doing something be wrong?"
Then again I can understand them, faced by all the issues in this country I don't even know where to start myself (Homeless children, polution, endangered species etc etc.) and thus most of the time turn my back on things.
On the other hand, companies in China actually get tax breaks for hiring disabled people.
I hate to add on to the feeling of being watched, but I would love to speak more with you both, TheSwedishGuy and Tonyaod. I am a filmmaker in the area and I was hoping to get a few more interviews about the subject (you would not have to be in front of the camera if you do not wish). I am very interested in speaking with the both of you, as you both bring up the great level of complexities of the issue. Speaking with both of you would be invaluable, if you are both willing to provide me with a few minutes of your time to speak more about this, feel free to e-mail me at lathamjones [at] gmail [d o t] com. Thanks so much!!
According to numerous copy cat blogs and even national newspapers repeating this story around the world, we in Kunming are now deemed to be living in a 'small mountain community'.
I guess one must think of all the things people do to make a living, and there are far worse ones than this, and many of those are illegal or immoral. If this is viewed as degrading or humiliating, think back on the last beauty pageant you may have seen. I personally would rather see short folks doing shows that prompt audience laughter (as mentioned, like vaudeville or slapstick humor) than see a bunch of half-starved, made-up-beyond-recognition women parading around in high heels and low cut dresses. Might add the same goes for a body-building competition. Are these to also be deplored and criticized as freak shows and exploitation? What is the distinction?
The world is fascinated by the unusual - that is why people stop and stare at most of us foreigners when they see us (me especially, with my giraffe-like legs...neck is normal, thank goodness ;-). This curiosity with the "odd" will not change. These short-statured folks have the choice and it is their choice to weigh this alternative, not perfect for sure, versus what they have outside this community and life. I applaud them for making the hard decision to leave their families and communities to try something new.
Actually, I meet the owner's wife via another friend who runs an English school. She invited me to accompany her but the plans fell through. Just yesterday I rode my bike by the place on some back, dirt roads. While I did not go in I was amazed by the infrastructure there. I will try to reinstate the invitation and go soon, and if not I will ride out there and see for myself.
Tell it to Steven Hawking. A person's physical stature does not limit his/her potential for work that does not rely on his/her physical stature (e.g., English teaching, as well as physics). The cultural attitude that those who are discriminated against because they do not fit the culturally desired norm should be outcast or should be provided for by special environments that can be sold as entertainment venues to those who will not deal with their own prejudices is a cultural attitude that perpetuates discrimination against all who are 'different'. The problem here, as elsewhere, is a matter of dehumanizing those who are 'different' - prejudicial culture that regiments anything that deviates from its standards, rather than dealing with the prejudice itself. Why not have a theme park within which 'foreigners', with all their funny habits, can be kept, so that they do not disturb the 'normality' of cultural prejudices? Actually, there could be many: one for 'black people', one for Tibetans, one for Japanese, one for gay people, one for Han Chinese people who have given up their 'traditional' clothing for 'western-style' clothing (e.g., the great majority of Chinese, over the past century or so) - in fact we could subdivide and subdivide until nothing was left but mutual nonrecognition. All these would help to maintain the narrow identities of 'normality' that can be relied upon to advance support the cultural attitudes that promote the continuing inability of people to recognize each other as human, and to celebrate and accept their differences - not as entertainment items, no matter how 'cute', but as full human beings. How different is all this from apartheid?
This effort to maintain prejudice can, of course, be profitable to those who invest in it, and convenient for social engineers and political elites who want to maintain an elite power status by reliance on it.
The place is an insult to our common humanity and a spotlight on cultural attitudes of exclusion. Those who find that they enjoy such displays should take a good look at the nature of the culture that has formed them so narrowly. Cultures change; cultures have always changed; cultures are presently changing and will continue to do so; there is nothing sacred about cultural attitudes. Our common humanity is an ongoing project, and those who imagine they are not part of such a project are simply contributing their own blindness to it, and limiting themselves in the process. It's not the 'dwarves' who are the problem, its the people who will not accept them as within the boundaries of 'us'.
"A person's physical stature does not limit his/her potential for work that does not rely on his/her physical stature"
Not sure i buy the argument. There is about 100 or so little people working there...How many of them can get jobs as an English teacher, yet alone a physics teacher..Maybe a couple! what about the rest of them?
Have you seen what happens to disabled people in china? Of course in a perfect world everyone would be equal and we would have no prejudice. Unfortunately that is not our world....What would you have these people do? go for the same jobs that a "normal" person would be after? I feel that would be like having a race and giving someone a head start!
Right or wrong These people need special situations in a country like china...In the west little people have better options, But here in china they are lucky to have a place..An amazing number of disabled people living in china are reduced to begging!
A rant like yours feels like it comes from a white middle class western place and sounds totally self serving. I mean, Its so nice of you to be the protector of the Chinese little person population ...But what else should they do...???
This debate cannot be resolved because in 'John Lennon's nutopia', an ideal world and paradise on earth, dwarves could become presidents of nations and movie stars.
And in 'Dante's Inferno', dwarves are relegated to street begging.
So is the middle ground of amusing the masses in a dwarf empire for half-decent wages good or bad? Depends on the reference point - nutopia or hell. And depends on which direction the entire planet is headed in.
I see: accept the cultural attitudes as unchangeable or eternal or something, and then attempt to protect the people from the culture. Martin Luther King perhaps once considered racial segregation as a protective measure for African Americans - but then he changed his mind.
Some how i knew you would play the race card! First, being black, white,yellow or brown does not change a person. or create a physical difference! Like it or not, wrong or right, being a little person does!
I don't have to "accept" anything...but i have to have a better idea before i slam a way of like for "disabled" people in china! I come from a place where many self righteous people live..(like you seem to be). They love to talk about how awful racism and discrimination is. Its easy to do sitting around a table sipping wine or posting on the net!
You bring up MLK..I hope you realize how ridiculous it is to compare yourself or your post to a hero of the american civil rights movement.....MLK had a plan! He had a vision! and most importantly he had a way to implement it ! Where is your plan, vision and your way to implement it???? I guess its easy to say "thats bad"!
Is it still in operation?
My plan is to stay the hell away from fantasy fairytale 'dwarf empire' ghettoes and encourage everyone else to do likewise.
Hey, even though in the USA it is illegal to discriminate against people's disabilities (Americans with Disabilities Act), it still happens all the time. Employers just come up with other reasons not to hire someone. And do not assume that little people have it so great in the Western world either. Many of them are actors who play bit parts as little people on TV shows, and have other jobs related to their stature. While having a village of them performing might seem like a very outdated thing by Western sensibilities, I have to halfway agree with the mother-in-law. These little people are using their disability to their own advantage, and there is something admirable about that.
Having been and spoken to the little people, they do seem genuinely content to be there. They have voluntarily travelled from all over China to join the attraction and told me of far more demeaning and demanding jobs they've been forced to do in their past. They claim there is a real community feeling and speak of friendships and love among other similarly sized people they would otherwise never have got the chance to meet. They did bemoan the attraction's leader who "makes them work and practice too hard", but that's not peculiar to their job or boss.
I agree with @tommann - whilst to western eyes it seems one step removed from Travelling Freak Shows, it's also not that far from Snow White pantomimes or Lucas's Ewoks. They get paid to use their special attributes in a positive way. To encourage people to stay away from the attraction is to damage their livelihood and condemn them to a much worse life. I say go there, support them, chat with them and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Let me ask again if this place is still in operation. Anybody been there recently?
1. I do not understand the relevance of what does or doesn't go on in the U.S. to this discussion.
2. 'Voluntarily' traveling to work and live in the Dwarf Empire is not entirely voluntary, as an above message itself: the message mentions how poorly small people are treated when applying for other jobs - i.e., the problem is one of establishing a level playing field in the society itself - dwarf kingdoms etc. are merely escapes, which increase the public attitude that these people are a globally 'special' group who can perform cuddly roles, etc., for tourist amusement, and can't do anything else.
In response to Alien's July 29 post, I wonder how he sees the difference between the Dwarf Kingdom and Kunming's Minorities Village? Do people go to the Minorities Village to admire, or is it to gawk at "those people's weird dress / dwellings / actions," or something in between? To be titillated or educated?
There is no reason to discriminate against anyone of small stature because of their size IF they have skills that allow them to do another job. Perhaps this is the biggest part of the problem, that most of them do not have significantly marketable skills (for various reasons that are not part of this argument), and is what relegates them to crappy employment opportunities, be it tending cattle in the countryside or dancing in tutus in the Dwarf Kingdom. What is significant is that there are heaps of others with this same limitation, lack of education or training, BUT those "normal" folks don't stick out the same way as short people with similar limitations...they blend into society and are relatively invisible to us because of their "normality." I don't think they have it any better than the short people, maybe worse in some ways. Do they have a chance to go to a Dwarf Kingdom to find work? No, instead they might turn to prostitution, theft or other less savory things than dancing in a tutu.
Introduce me an educated, competent person whose values I respect and I will hire them, be friends with them, etc. any day, regardless of size, skin color, gender, nationality, religion. I have respect for the person who made the hard choice to find the best possible avenue, even if the Dwarf Kingdom, and is working to improve their life by their own hands and mind.
If we all boycott the Dwarf Kingdom, what will happen to those working there now? Will those who think the place is evil step up and do something positive to assist these newly unemployed people? Will you give you time to train them in some employable skill? Teach them English for free? Offer them a roof over their heads? Will you modify your home or place of business to accommodate their short stature (as has been done at the Kingdom)? It isn't perfect but I can imagine far worse fates for them.
Before this thread gets shut down for all the usual reasons, will some one please tell me if this place is still in operation.
The only thing slightly helpful I could find online was a flyer (maybe years old) for The Hump. It said they arranged tours to the Dwarf Kingdom.
Maybe they will know of contact details at least, even though they may be outdated.
China_Stew, I'm not sure what difference between Dwarf Empire & Minorities Village you are talking about, but I think they're pretty much the same.
The Minorities Village being the place off Dianchi Rd. where there are tiny ethnic villages set up and people (I assume they are from the ethnic minority) dress up, do shows and so on. I imagine some of them feel some sort of discrimination due to their ethnic background (likely tied to lack of educational opportunities in the hinterlands), but of course nothing like the short people experience.
Does going to see recreations of purported minority lifestyles and so on demean them? Do those working there demean themselves by doing such work?
Anyway, a different shade along the equality / inequality continuum.
I guess the line thinking in this thread would lead one to conclude that the NBA is demeaning to tall Black dudes.
Poor guys are recruited because they are tall ball players and are forced contractually, to exhibit, near naked in scanty clothing, their speed, agility, ball handling and shooting skills so teams and TV networks can profit from their physical deformity.
Much better they remain on intercity playgrounds, poor, jobless, but free of exploitation.
Basketball players play a game that people like to watch. Being tall is an advantage in this game.
People performing at ethnic/dwarf tourist sites present their identities according to instructions from those who control them economically in a manner that panders to popular, often demeaning misconceptions of who they are as human beings.
Most of us live in the real world, not some PC utopia. In the Kingdom of the Dwarves, the one eyed alien is just as blind.
Hard to argue your points. Your preconceived notions roll out of your PC trained mind with no thought of the folks you wish to save from their fate. I think you ought to do a little research rather than just espouse unrealistic positions.
Sometimes, people who can take advantage of the hand they have been dealt become NBA stars. Others maximize their situation by becoming actors. Both pander to the crowd and both present, whatever attributes and skills they possess, to their own benefit and the profit of others.
Somehow, you have decided the dwarf is not worthy of employment you have chosen to characterize as demeaning.
I am quite glad you are not making life decisions for me.
By the way, isn't the plural "dwarves", and not "dwarfs"?
About half way or so on the highway between Kunming and Dali there are some strange looking buildings on a hillside right off the road. If you have been on that highway, you know what I am talking about. Is that the dwarf village? What are those odd buildings?
Sounds like Dinosaur valley.
Haha ok I stand corrected.
I'm glad this discussion picked up again after so many years. I remember seeing Chris there when I went to check this place out after hearing about it from a local newspaper back in 2009. I felt just as ogled as the performers, but at least they were getting paid for it. When I first showed up I was appalled, but after hanging out for a little while I felt a strong sense of excitement, playfulness, and community between the participants that developed by bringing these marginalized people together. They seemed indifferent to the sea of gawkers that came and went during the day and it looked like they were performing more for each other than for us. I'm sure quite a few romantic relationships culminated in that place because the flirting and showing off seemed to be constant. If I was in the same situation then I probably would have gone there too.
I have to mention the best and most blatant reverse exploitation setting I have seen here in China. I booked an incredibly cheap Chinese tour to Hainan in 2005 to check it out and see if I wanted to move there. Normally I am not the kind of person that would ever be herded around in a tour group but I thought it would be a novelty in itself, it happened to be 200 kuai less than a plane ticket alone, and it also covered food and lodging for a week! So at one point in the tour we go to this tourist trap minority village where as soon as we walked in all the Chinese men were grabbed and held in a vice like grip by the minority girls until someone would take a picture of them together and then they were aggressively browbeaten into handing over cash before the girls would let go. Then we were all herded into an actual human corral where we were not one person besides myself was let out before they handed over some more cash. And besides a crappy gift shop that was it. They took it easy on me because I was a foreigner, but you could see in their demeanor that they all took great pleasure in bullying the Chinese who were just trying their best to avoid individual embarrassment in this group setting. Anyways, sorry to go on like that but I've been waiting years to share that anecdote with people that get the context. Great discussion guys.
It's all true what you say Alien but I have to write something, the only way to realize if this place is an abuse or not is to ask the people of the "kingdom" themselves.
You know everywhere in the world there are spontaneous "ghettos", just think about chinatowns everywhere, brooklyn in nw, a gay or lesbian bar in a big city, a VIP card club etc
It's all part of the same mechanism of human being, sharing big part of life with somebody who looks similar to protect itself.
The fact that these "dwarfs" are "disable" is actually a label that dominant society gives to them. Everybody has a disability side, even when you fail a job interview you can take it as "not able" to perform that kind of job.
These guys are free to join or not the village, as far as I know no government forces any short guy to live in that place and be part of the show, they can live in kunming or somewhere else and try to get a different job from some employer who believes in them. They have a choice, join the village and get an easy job or struggling to get something, maybe, more challenging. The same choice of an english teacher who decides to accept a job in a kindergarten where he just has to repeat banana, apple, yellow, blue few times a day.
And I tell you something more, it is possible that in their point of view the audience is the real show. It happened to me to do some performances, and while I was doing that I was in the mood to consider the audience as the show itself. I enjoyed watching their reactions, some of them were funny exactly like the clowning show I was doing myself. They were laughing at me, I was laughing at them.
Just let's ask them, what is their personal story, why they have chosen to live there, what do they think etc. That would the perfect task for a movie director. I hope somebody will be totally free to make a good documentary about that place.
Wish some of you internet philosophers would actually go visit the place and let the rest of us know what it's like.
Geezer, basketball players pander to a crowd that watches them because they are good sportsmen. Short people at Dwarf Kingdom pander to a crowd that watches them simply because they are short.
Misfit, I can sympathize with short people who go to work at Dwarf Kingdom because they can't get other jobs - they are making the best of a bad situation, and have immediate needs. However, over the long run, places like Dwarf Kingdom do nothing to improve the situation that gives them few better choices in life.
Alien, when your prejudices, biases, preconceptions, mind reading is removed the facts are clear.
Both NBA players and dwarfs are performer. They incorporate their distinctive physical attributes and skills sets for onlookers that pay to watch their performances.
Both groups perform according to instructions from those who control them economically in a manner that panders to the expectations of those that control them economically. That is called working at a job. Very few people can afford not to perform when, where and how the employer dictates or expects.
You characterize NBA players as "sportsman" while suggesting dwarfs are victims of malicious exploiters. Would this perception melt away if both groups were paid the same? What if dwarf performers earned ten million RMB a year? Would your humanist concerns disappear?
It would seem you have no interest in the needs and feelings of the performing dwarfs. You impose your privileged perspective on them without regard to the situation they must, without choice, live with. A few hundred people work and perform in community, housed and fed, without your help. Why do you wish to deprive them of this? With your help, and your own prejudices, biases, and preconceptions, you would prohibit dwarfs from employment as performers. The result would most likely be the current dwarf performers being cast out of their homes and being reduced to begging.
You have clearly never experienced the Kingdom of the Dwarfs, nor the Minority Village, and have conjured, from supposition, bias, prejudice, weird altruism, and your mind's vision, of a decadent dehumanizing exploitation. Your conclusions are from your imagination. Your solutions would hurt the folks you think you care about.
Plea to GoKunming editorial staff:
The continuing robust health of this thread (almost 4 years) demonstrates an interest in and curiosity about this topic from a segment of your loyal readers.
Please dispatch a couple of your ace investigative reporters (on their bicycles) to the Dwarf Kingdom and give us a real-time update.
A Pulitzer awaits.
Alien, I actually agree with geezer.
Short guys who decide to quit school to become good jockeys, good motorbike riders or good performers have exactly the same respect from me. As far as they all work hard to develop a skill, the fact that the so-called "normal society" laugh only at the last one i just irrelevant. It is actually a mirror of how majority of people are not able to recognize talent where it is expressed in an unusual form.
Geezer, the day one of those guys will earn 10 million rmb a year might not be that far. Imagine a visionary movie director who decides to make a movie series about the life in the village....
I think that disabled people should be a part of the society and in a harshly cruel society dominated by population such as China, if they can work in a theme park vs. begging, then maybe that is ok for now, until the society sees that these people are just as intellectually capable as the rest of us. We are waiting for the Chinese development on non-monetary issues such as moral standards but I do not feel it has the same focus as GDP. What about Gross Domestic Happiness? I would say this place is bankrupt cv., 15 years ago.
Saturday, December 7
Zoltan's Jazz Trio plays two sets of Kunming's best jazz, 9:00pm, free entry
Rugby Tournament After Party with techno legend Ni Bing (倪兵), 10pm, 30 yuan
Live Music: indie-rock band Neuville with support from world music duo Los Dos Amigos and DJ Hugh Jarce (Australia), 10pm, free entry
Live Music: with Holly, 9:30pm, free entry
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