The Yunnan Nationalities Park on the outskirts of Kunming is a complex place. It’s a self described theme park that showcases the rich diversity of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups (Around 92% Han and then 55 other groups make up the other ~8%, it’s important to note that these 55 minority groups do not include all minority groups actually present in China).
We went to the park partially to learn about the different minority groups but more importantly to see how these groups are represented in a government sponsored theme park. For many of the Han majority, parks like this one are their only access to some of the most remote minority groups.
The park is set up in a similar fashion to Epcot Center in Florida. There are different regions like “Little Tibet” or “Traditional Dai Village.” As you enter each region you become “fully immersed” into that culture, learning about its customs and culture.
It’s a complicated place. While preservation and showcasing of these 55 minority cultures is honorable it’s hard to ignore the romanticization and over simplification of these incredibly complex cultures. Also little to no historical context was given.
Students were given the assignment to interview the staff in different regions and were given some guiding prompts to make observations about the park.
Afterwards we held a engaging discussion about ethnic minority based tourism.