Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kingdom of the Dwarfs in Southern China

This truly is where the world of fairy tales crosses into ours (or is it ours crosses into theirs?). Remember Snow White and the little men she stayed with? When you read about a community of people separating themselves to live and work on their own terms it doesn't seem so fanciful that Snow White would stumble across a dwelling with seven hard working and separated people/men and beg lodging.

Before you get on my case about reporting such a thing and using the word 'dwarf' to refer to real people, let me assure you I'm using their terms and that this village in China is a pro-active movement on their part to take control of their lives and stand against discrimination. The Chinese dwarves set out to make their own village and are now attracting tourists - on purpose. That hasn't stopped it from being a great source of controversy for many.

Jobs are hard to find in China right now and jobs for the disabled are even harder. This community of people have turned their disabilities into an asset and are (reportedly) very happy in their village (please note it's coming out of China).

There are a many different opinions on the community, a few being voiced HERE (mostly by Westerners it seems).

From Digital Journal:
The mountain commune in Kunming, China has only one prerequisite; you must be under 4 feet 3 inches tall. Now the village of 120 dwarves has turned itself into a tourist attraction by living in mushroom-like houses that are like castles and dressing up and living like fairy tale characters (Ed. FTNH: Including Snow White's seven dwarves, according to tourist reports).

An illustration from page 17 of Mjallhvít (Snow White) from an 1852 icelandic translation of the Grimm-version fairytale. (Source Project Gutenberg)

The residents have set up their own police force and a fire department.
...They have formed an "Art Troupe" that creates performances for tourists such as acrobatics, magic tricks, songs and dances. The residents charge an entrance fee to get into the village.
Spokesman from the village, Fu Tien, says this (reported by the UK Telegraph):
"As small people we are used to being pushed around and exploited by big people," he said. "But here there aren't any big people and everything we do is for us."
The village is in Southern China near Kunming; a lovely city from all accounts and set in a region of great beauty with such attractions as The Stone Forest and being home to 25% of the world's endangered species. The only thing is, I can't find many pictures to show you at all. There are many of the surrounding area but of the village itself, only the UK Telegraph seems to have pictures to put on the web. I also just noticed Neatorama reported on this today. Perhaps this will send the curious (a.k.a. tourists) - and income - their way.

One more note for you before you relegate all this type to an Eastern way of thinking: You know Coney Island? One of the biggest attractions in the early 1900's used to be Lilliputia (named for the tiny residents of a strange land the Gulliver came across on his Travels of course). It was supposedly a Utopian society of little people that prospered until the whole amusement park burned down in 1911.
Lilliputias midget fire department
Among the most incredible and original attractions was Lilliputian the midget city, 300 midget from the traveling circuses and freak shows of the whole continent was offered a permanent experimental society within the park. As the city only needed to be half size of an ordinary city it was possible to build this utopian cardboard city on a small budget. It was complete with it's own parliament, a beach with midget lifeguards, a midget theatre, stables with small ponies, and a complete midget fire department responding every hour to put out imaginary fires. To exaggerate the scale and enlarge the illusion from time to time giants were instructed to take a stroll within the city..
You can read more about Coney Island and Lilliputia HERE.


  1. Handled with taste and aplomb, Gypsy. I debated this one and since you've handled it well, I will let it rest here!

  2. This was almost the best article I have read in this blog. I hope it make changes to how I administrate my websites in the future...

  3. I agree that this post has been handled well, but I do feel the need to mention, that despite many advances, China is a communist country ruled by a dictatorship. Meaning the people of china have little say about their own lives. I have read a few articles that say that the people who work at this "theme park" are "happy" etc, and I would like to remind others that when you live in a country that is ruled by a dictatorship you do not have the liberty to express discontentment.

    Additionally, I am a supporter of the "people first" movement, which places people before their disabilities. Therefore recognizing a persons dignity first. Thus, I think it would be a good habit to come by if people began putting "people first" and referring to persons who are "disabled" as PERSONS who ______ and then fill in the black, persons who are "dwarfs" persons who have a disability, persons who are handicapped etc....

    On a "positive" note, these people who are marginalized due to their "disability" have the opportunity to live amongst people who have the same struggles as them. That is a valuable experience that is probably quite empowering, despite how bizarre it seems...and albeit a theme park, they are finally somewhere where their surrounding are catered to them!

  4. Go Little People