Photos from rotting Chinese theme-park in Orlando

Kathryn sez,

In 1993 the People's Republic of China opened a park just south of Orlando, FL featuring over 60 handcrafted replicas of China's architectural, cultural and historical landmarks. Throughout Splendid China's 10 years of operation, the it was plagued by low attendance, frequent protests against the idyllic depictions of China the park provided, and financial mismanagement. The park was closed in 2003.

This past weekend two friends and I did a little urban exploring of the park, and took a lot of pictures. I was very surprised at how quickly the park has fallen into disrepair since its closing five years ago. It seems that vandals have stolen just about anything that wasn't bolted down (and lots of things that were). Most of the ceramic figurines have been smashed, which made for interesting photos at least.

Link to gallery one, Link to gallery two (Thanks, Kathryn!)

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  1. oooh it’s like the abandoned theme park in “Spirited Away” … filled with the ghosts of pseudo-Chinese carnies!

  2. Jeez, looks like they bugged out. So much useful stuff left behind… That miniature Great Wall is awesome. Imagine the action figure movies you could make there.

  3. I remember visiting that place back in 1997 during a trip to Orlando. We had to pick up some hotel vouchers from our travel agent, and the agent’s office was actually in the park. The park was apparently making extra money renting out office space.

    We wondered how exactly we’d get into a theme park without paying, but the ticket booths were abandoned and anyone who wanted to attend could just walk in. Not that that was helping. We were the only people there. We felt bad for the employees who standing ready to give tours but clearly never actually giving one.

    I heard the manager sent from China to run the place was eventually returned to China and imprisoned because the place was such a failure.

  4. Having been to Beijing recently, the only thing I could think while looking at these photos was, ‘Now it looks like China!’

  5. Holy cow, I went to this park on a grade-school field trip! I remember that it was eerily quiet, but I didn’t see any protesters. Not that I, at that age, would have understood what they were protesting.

    When we stopped mid-tour for lunch, the only food the offered was, of course, Chinese, and pretty much what you’d expect, quality-wise.

  6. It’s like the Taliban lives inn Orlando. Heartbreaking and tragic, the photos made me weep. There was (is?) a giant, multi-armed Buddha staue in the center of the park, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen … didn’t see any photos of it, wonder if it’s still there.

    We actually went to the auction they held when the park finally closed, spent $150 on the Ancient Star Observatory, a massive six-foot tall pyramid, then found out it was anchored by several tons of concrete and would have cost thousands to move. We kept the top wall and some of the figures that hadn’t already been smashed. Regardless of the actual purpose of Splendid China and the political evilness behind it, it was a beautiful place and, in my opinion, less insidious than Disney. No wonder it failed.

  7. My huzz and I visited Splendid China not long after it opened, and it was already starting to crumble. Definitely my favorite spooky cool mostly empty propaganda theme park. Woo hoo! I should dig out my photos from that trip and scan the best ones…

  8. Entropy reigns supreme. I suppose in a harsh semitropical and populous environment like Florida, even moreso…

  9. @JHAYES

    I was disappointed to find that the multi-armed Buddha statue was gone, the marble base that used to support it was empty. I’m guessing it was sold rather than stolen, as it looked like it was extracted from the base using serious power tools and judging by the pictures I’ve seen of it, would likely require a crane to move it. Considering we had several very close calls with the patrolling security guard, I don’t think anyone would have been stealthy enough to make off with that statue without notice.

  10. This is the kind of thing that I like to imagine will confuse the hell out of archaeologists in the future…

    ENTROPY REIGNS SUPREME! It’s pretty-much the ultimate inevitability. Entropy and irony…

  11. Fascinating post!

    I wonder what materials/techniques they used to get such realistic natural rock effects, such as here.

  12. @JHAYES

    I took notice of the word “evilness” that you’v used in your comments,what made me created this account.
    Greenday says that American is a nation controlled by the media.Actually,I don’t quite agree with that,coz I believe that all nations are controlled by the media,including yours and mine.So,I don’t really trust parts of news in my country,even most of time they are positive.For your comment,I guess that you must misundertand China a lot,and your hostility towards us might be also educated by the media,something like CNN or Times.You should know that media is a kind of politics.I think China has been devilized to some extent by the politicalize media.Whatever,seeing is believing,hope you can come to China if you have time,hope you’ll contact with the people here,and know more about our cultures and customs.By the way,check out the accuracy of the media and my words.

  13. @ BRICOLOGY

    The rock formations of the miniature stone forest were hollow. They seemed to be made of some sort of internal frame covered in textured plaster or concrete or something. From the pictures in the old brochure we found in the rubble strewn about the Golden Peacock Theater, the it appears the stone forest even had a waterfall.

  14. Whatever,seeing is believing,hope you can come to China if you have time,hope you’ll contact with the people here,and know more about our cultures and customs.

    Which cultures and customs? The media repression? Filtering the internet? The arbitrary arrests and detentions? The beatings? The torture? The executions? The unsafe working conditions? Slavery in the brick factories? The pesticides and lead in everything? The destruction of the environment? The destruction of Tibetan culture? Yeah, China’s just non-stop Happy Fun Time.

  15. Let’s separate the Chinese government and the Chinese people/culture/customs.

    I originally meant “in this instance”, but its also a nice idea in general. We could leave the Chinese people in China and move the Chinese government to like.. an unpopulated island somewhere without the internet, they might be happier.

  16. Ark,

    I acknowledge that the masses in China are getting bent over by their government, and not in a fun pull-my-hair kind of way. But they also support the government wholeheartedly. SV appears to be a pro troll.

  17. Hmm.. the last time I asked each and every Chinese person individually and at length, I got a different answer. We must collate our data :p

    “No comment” on SV’s troll status though.

    Aside: So, you’re a hair-puller eh? (or pullee specifically)

  18. SV’s troll status

    Whenever ‘China’, ‘Tibet’ or ‘Olympics’ show up in a post, new people sign up and make very similar comments. They have a wide-eyed, innocent, Ministry of Propaganda tone.

    And, no, more spanking or biting.

  19. Yeah, I know the routine.. ProTrolls, rather than the biting :)

    And Takuan, was that a double, or are you just in a particularly agreeable mood?

  20. Quick!

    Someone reboot Takuan!

    She’s stuck in a loop!

    ctrl-alt-delete..

    ctrl-alt-delete..

    esc.. esc.. esc!

    Damn it!

  21. I hear Mariachi static on my radio
    And the tubes they glow in the dark
    And I’m there with her in Ensenada
    And I’m here in Echo Park

    Carmelita hold me tighter
    I think I’m sinking down
    And I’m all strung out on heroin
    On the outskirts of town

    Well, I’m sittin’ here playing solitaire
    With my pearl-handled deck
    The county won’t give me no more methadone
    And they cut off your welfare check

    Carmelita hold me tighter
    I think I’m sinking down
    And I’m all strung out on heroin
    On the outskirts of town

    Well, I pawned my Smith Corona
    And I went to meet my man
    He hangs out down on Alvarado Street
    By the Pioneer chicken stand

    Carmelita hold me tighter
    I think I’m sinking down
    And I’m all strung out on heroin
    On the outskirts of town

    Carmelita hold me tighter
    I think I’m sinking down
    And I’m all strung out on heroin

  22. @ Kathryn — Thanks for the info about the construction of the fake stone structures. I would guess that the steel frames were covered with wire mesh, over which they shot gunite, then troweled it into the texture they wanted. In the photos, it looks like they did a great job with the realism, especially since it’s been left out in the elements for 15 years.

  23. I went to this place as a kid when it was not yet rundown; it was fun taking photos which appeared to be of the actual landmarks, not replicas thereof. I was too young to consider the propaganda ramifications, though.

  24. @Antinous:
    Most of the problems that you metioned are the truth,except two–“The pesticides and lead in everything”&”The destruction of Tibetan culture”.It’s easy to deny the former if you use your brain.And the latter has been distorted,coz there is testimony of foreign witness and videos.Otherwise,I have no reason to believe the news reported by the media that was not at the spot and is thousands of miles away,especially the story happended in our “backyard”.If you insist,I’m sure that you know little about politics.
    We have no thing at all just 59 years ago,we’re young ,we have lots of problems,we need time to solve all of them step by step.I don’t think your society hadn’t experienced or made out those problems in the past three handred year of capitalism developing.Are you sure that you country didn’t destruct of the environment during the time of more than three handred years’ capital accumulation?You did it no less than us.Actually,China’s trying to solve those problem all the time,but that’s what you media had never reported.

    And about your last comment,I want to tell you that ,try to leave a comment in Chinese on a Chinese website to someone after reading his comment.If you can make it,do let me know.You should try,man.

  25. @Antinous&arkizzle:
    I swear I’m not what you said a troll,I’m just a normal collage student.I got nothing to convince you guys,believe it or not.

    by the way,we use gladder or Tor while surfing on the web,we say “f**k” to GFW more than you do.

    Thank you if you have read all my comments with poor english.

  26. my friend and i just snuck in over the weekend. it’s not hard to jump the wall. but there was a security guard wandering around once we were inside. made for good drama. we were hoping he wasn’t hired by the chinese government. he didn’t appear to be too ruthless. we left with some roof tiles and a broken figurine. there were tattered, sun-faded lanterns strewn about the shattered glass landscape – like dead jellyfish washed up on a shore.

  27. hey a quick question for you were there any people around when you guys entered or was it pretty quiet around the neighborhood? Were there any sign about trespassing and stuff like that?

  28. hey was this place hard to get into? Like were there sign about no trespassing? Any guards? Is it isolated away from the street or houses?

  29. I would not suggest attempting to enter this park anymore. As of a couple weeks ago they started patrolling it 24 hours. I learned this first-hand when I got caught by a security guard while I was doing some photography in the park. The cops were called an I was given a trespass warning.

    Apparently they have had increasing problems with vandals in the park. There has been a lot more damage done to the park since the photos on this thread were taken. Nearly everything is covered in graffiti. Even the large Buddha statues have graffiti on them.

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