The “World Park” in Beijing: Postmodern Fever in China

Postmodernism is featured as many: intertextuality, re-making, identity ambiguity, mocking and self-mocking, and lost of meaning. The idea of “all that could be created has already been created” is a display of desperation as well as confusion. The emergence of postmodernism, which resulted from human’s desire for an alternative to post-war trauma, . Assisted by advanced technologies, humans are able to create “fantasies” that could help them to face the imagined world, or simply representations of fantasies that carry the philosophical features.

An interesting instance of this matter is the “World Park” in Beijing. At cost of 150 million RMB (ca. 18.75 euro), the theme park was built from 1991-1993.9. It is a concentration of the simulations of the most famous architectures all over the world, such as small-sized replicas of Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Sphinxes and other landmarks. Just as animation movies, originally aimed at children, which started to serve for adult audience at the rise of the post-Second-World-War changes, the theme park “World Park” shows not only to children who do not have experiences into the “world”, but most importantly, it displays all the adult in the country who were not able to see the authentic ones with their own eyes. Although “fake”, these replicas in the park construct a simulation that satisfies the longing of people for the world that is totally different from theirs. But it is indeed a “fantasy”, as all the other postmodern works. Disney World is a fantasy. Although built based on real architecture, it represents a world not existing in this world; while the “World” park represents the places that actually exist in the world. However for the audience, it is still a “fantasy land”. Perhaps that is the most ironic point of this instance. Until the end of 20th century, travelling to another side of the border was still a upper-class privilege in China. Since the “open-up” of the country in 1970s and the introduction of free market and many other western economic and cultural concepts, the common Chinese people started to feel eager to know more about the outside world. High travelling expenses and visa restrictions (to clear up, “visa restriction” on citizens does not refer to they are not allowed to leave the country by their own government, rather the foreign countries only issue entering permission in this country in rare cases. It is a diplomatic matter, which means it is always mutual.) made it virtually impossible for the common. Thus, the theme parks like “World” park were built up to cater the needs of the Chinese people who eagerly wanted to see and to connect with the rest of the world.

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a replica of the “Golden Gate Bridge”

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A Simulation of The White House

Further, another question was raised on extension of this example: geographically the same distance between China and the western world, why didn’t the western countries also build such theme parks replicating eastern famous buildings as China did? The answer is less than obvious. The victory of capitalism decided the dominance of western culture since the end of the Cold War. On the opposite of the time of Marco Polo, western society in the late 20th century had not so much curiosity for eastern cultures other than judgments about them as “under-developed”, “oppressed” and “mysterious”. Even today it is still the same. As whom I can speak for, the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean people watch large amount of contemporary western movies and TV series, and to know more about the western modern life. How much do westerns watch eastern TVs? Apart from the culture dominance of western society the last question can also be answered to by different concepts of travelling and travel-expense-affordability.

ImagePeople experience a Arab camel ride in the World Park

 

The postmodern simulation creates nothing more but illusions. The illusion is created on the variable level of believability depending on the purpose of the simulations. The “World” park does not need to make visitors to feel as if they were really in the authentic places, but the technologies that enable to make alteration on a person’s identity needs to. Does the plastic surgery really alter who the person is? Or the same as all the other postmodern products, it only creates a fantasy for humanity to escape from the reality to dive into the illusion, which is also created by the humans, so that they can mock at the “imperfection” of reality, then mock at the mocking and finally at the existence of themselves.

ImageNew York and the Manhattan Skyline, of course before 9/11, 2011

 

A typical “ultimate question” of Postmodernism is no longer “Who am I?” and “Where I am going?” but rather “Who do I want to be?” and “Where do I want to go?” In a era that always emphasises “nothing is impossible”, the technology-advanced postmodern society virtually made everything possible by imagination and simulate imagination into reality. However, no matter how postmodern philosophy thrives, people are not living in any of the fantasy and will never be. The ironic feature of postmodern works could be critical so that humans would reflect themselves and try to make the reality better.

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