Now we know China has truly arrived

Now there can be no denying China’s ascension. This is akin to nothing less than a baptism or ISO9001 certification. China’s greatness is undeniable.

Nearly a century after legendary U.S. showman Richard Ripley first came to China, the firm bearing his name plans to open one of its trademark “Believe It or Not” museums of the bizarre in Asia’s most populous nation.

Ripley visited China many times in the early 20th century, his fascination with the country stemming partly from his belief that he had been Chinese in a previous life, Ripley Entertainment president Bob Masterson said.

“Ripley loved everything about China,” said Masterson of a man whose name became synonymous for Americans with everything from odd-shaped vegetables to strange arts and crafts and weird quirks of timing. “He had a huge collection of Chinese art and a Chinese junk. He dressed in a traditional Chinese robe. And the love of his life was a Chinese woman,” Masterson told Reuters.

…Unlike other markets such as the United States, where people prefer more mundane fare such as strange arts and crafts, Ripley’s Chinese brethren go for the truly bizarre, Masterson said. He cited the firm’s previous experience with a Hong Kong museum.

“The strange and bizarre were more popular there than anything: multi-headed animals, shrunken heads from the Amazon,” he said. “Anything on the extreme side of nature — they enjoy that immensely.”

One of the most unbelievable things about the planned China museum, which the company hopes to build in a second-tier tourist city, would be the price it envisages charging for admission.

Masterson says he believes Chinese may be willing to pay 80 yuan ($10) per ticket to see the bizarre, a princely sum in a country where many still earn less than $100 a month.

80 yuan in a second-tier city?? Now that is ballsy. I guess they’re thinking of a place like Guilin, somewhere that only cash-rich tourists flock to. Whenever you see a Ripoff’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not “museum,” it’s a sure sign you’ve entered a tourist trap where they assume gullible vacationing hicks will cheerfully throw money away for some cheap thrills. (And amazingly, they do!) But after reading about the construction of the world’s biggest ferris wheel going up in Shanghai for the deranged price of $12 a ride (yes, US dollars), I guess Ripley’s knows what it’s doing, and they’ll probably make a killing.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

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July 13, 2006 @ 6:53 am | Comment

I completely disagree with you, Richard. Chinese love the bizarre, and I think would be more than willing to part with 80 RMB to be submersed in the truly peculiar.

July 13, 2006 @ 7:45 am | Comment

They can move Mao’s body there!

July 13, 2006 @ 10:53 am | Comment

Kevin, I think enough will cough up the $$ to make it work – I said they’d make a killing. But the 80 RMB charge is obscene.

July 13, 2006 @ 5:46 pm | Comment

I don’t know, 80 RMB is chump change compared to other admission fees in China these days. I mean, that goofy Windows Of The World park in Shenzhen is 100 RMB if I remember correctly. When you get up to those “state-level scenic spots”, it really bites you in the lower rear quadrant. A thread on Lonely Planet’s travel forum reports that entry to the Potala Palace in Lhasa is set to rise to 300 RMB. Jiuzhaigou? 220 RMB. Huangshan? 200 RMB. Mogao Caves? 120 RMB. Zhangjiajie? 245 RMB. It can be worse at the provincial level as every one of their “scenic spots” seeks to wring as much as they can from visitors, usually via multiple soakings (AKA ticket fees) within the same attraction.

July 14, 2006 @ 9:51 pm | Comment

Is there anyone in the world who wants to go into one of these places more than once in their lives?

Then again, they are overpriced everywhere.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:03 am | Comment

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