No one told me about the Kingdom of Dwarves theme park when I was in Yunnan (and don’t miss that slideshow!). It’s on my list for the next trip. And for those looking for work, they’re recruiting – as long as you’re under 4’3″ tall.
Is there something wrong with exploiting people’s physical abnormalities (for want of a better word) to lure in the curious, similar to what a freak show does? These people don’t think so, and in fact seem quite delighted with their work.
To many around the world, the very idea of putting people on stage to perform simply because they don’t look like everyone else is cringe-inducing. But even though they must dress up in frilly princess and caped warrior costumes befitting small children and dance for tourists, performers at the bizarre theme park see this place as a haven from the overwhelming discrimination they face in China at large.
“Back home, strangers will stare at and they look down on us,” said Yang Lichun of Beijing, who moved across the country to work at the park this summer with her fiance. “If we can even find jobs at home, we have to work harder than everyone else to prove ourselves.”
….The workers simply see this as dagong — the modern Chinese notion of migrant work, leaving your hometown for a job elsewhere. Tens of millions do it for factory and construction work; these workers came here to put on a show for tourists who want to see little people.
Considering that all parties – the dwarf performers and the visitors who flock to see them – seem happy with the arrangement, I can’t see any reason to be critical. It’s not like we haven’t done anything similar.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.