Atlas Obscura is sharing a series of dispatches on the more offbeat side of China’s capital and the surrounding area from the Secret Guide to Alternative Beijing. As we previously recapped, the Kickstarter-funded video project traveled to Shanghai’s 1933 Slaughterhouse, and now we follow their rather treacherous trip to an abandoned knock-off Disneyland called the Wonderland Amusement Park.
Zoetica Ebb of the Secret Guide to Alternative Beijing writes:
Warm September afternoon, just twenty miles outside of Beijing. A soft breeze rustles sprawling corn fields, rolls over unfinished cement turrets and whistles through rusted, skeletal beginnings (or are they remains?) of an enchanted fortress. Pigeons echo through the damp gloom of massive, unfinished brick edifices. A group of farmers takes a smoke break nearby, while a bustling film crew directs several costumed monsters for a television commercial in a blue-roofed fantasy tower a few dozen feet away, close to the neighboring highway. And yet, everything seems still, as though the vast expanse of open air, sleeping buildings and swaying crops swallow sound in this abandoned sanctuary.
This was the scene when we approached Wonderland Amusement Park—China’s would-be knock-off Disneyland, jilted in 1998 after considerable financial turmoil involving local officials. Having read a number of articles on the place, we expected the farmers and their crops, but we couldn’t have anticipated the imperious, camo-clad, armed local demanding a cash bribe, or else. During our Kickstarter campaign we promised you Wonderland and The Secret Guide team keeps its word—even in the face of danger and exasperation. After a lengthy, heated discussion with said fellow (who threatened to call everyone from the owner, to the police, to the nebulous “authorities” unless we paid up), a few hundred RMB got us one hour on the premises. Imagine our chagrin when we discovered a back entrance at the end of our tour!
For more on the Wonderland Amusement, check out the entry on the Secret Guide website, visit the Altas Obscura entry. Watch here for weekly posts in the coming months on the Secret Guide to Alternative Beijing and visit their blog for more on their explorations of China.