Welcome to Wonderland — or what’s left of the so-called abandoned Chinese Disneyland.
Wonderland was intended to be a huge tourist destination in China, located on a 100-acre plot of land about 45 minutes outside of Beijing. With U.S. copyright laws being what they are in foreign countries, developers created a Disney World-style theme park that they promised would be “the largest amusement park in Asia.”
However, construction stopped around 1998 over disagreements between the local government and farmers over property prices. “Developers briefly tried to restart construction in 2008, but without success. The abandoned structures are now a draw for local children and a few photographers, who encounter signs telling them to proceed at their own risk,” reports The Atlantic.
The site now resembles an apocalyptic wasteland rising out of surrounding cornfields, with scrubby brush popping up around the skeletal remains of castles and other mythical structures. It’s both beautiful and haunting, cared for by locals when they aren’t tending to their crops.
Numerous photographers have visited Wonderland to take in the eerie surroundings. Reuters photographer David Gray noted, “I came across a rather farcical sight of some farmers digging a well next to a castle; a moment I will always savor as a photographer in a place like China where castles are not in huge supply.” He called Wonderland “another sad example of property development in China involving wasted money, wasted resources and the uprooting of farmers and their families.”
Videographer Catherine Hyland described it this way on her website: “Trapped in limbo, a hybrid space between the ‘real’ and the artificial, this environment induces a sense of transformation or manipulation that appears to permeate and displace the realm of fantasy. Tamed by the locals, the uncompleted remnants of Wonderland become the antithesis of everything it was supposed to be, its value altered permanently.”
What Is Wonderland Today?
Wondering whatever happened to the infamous abandoned Chinese Disneyland? Almost all of the structures were torn down back in May 2013. In its place rose The
Badaling Outlets — that’s right, an outlet mall — which opened in 2015.
The one survivor from the never-opened theme park? The castle, which writer/photographer Oliver Smith shot back in 2016. The castle even got a little bit of a paint job. Smith’s site gives great instructions on how to get there and see what remains.
Check out this YouTube video of the mall. It pretty much looks like what you’d expect.