GoKunming Forums

小矮人王国 - Kingdom of the Dwarfs

TheSwedishGuy (64 posts) • 0

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"

Tonyaod (824 posts) • 0

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.

TheSwedishGuy (64 posts) • 0

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.

BradenLJH (3 posts) • 0

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!!

nnoble (889 posts) • 0

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'.

China_Stew (3 posts) • 0

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.

Alien (3819 posts) • 0

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'.

Related forum threads

Login to post