James Brown once said that this is a man’s world, but for dwarfs, this is more like a tall man’s world. This outlook especially holds true in Asia, where the struggle for equal rights gradually continues without a clear resolution in sight. Until civil liberties become commonplace throughout Asia, dwarfs seeking a successful career need only look to the Dwarf Empire of China.
Situated next to Xishan Hill, approximately 40km west of Kunming, the Dwarf Empire is a theme park that caters to the lifestyle of dwarfs. It was founded in May 2009 by Chen Mingjing, a successful electronics and real-estate businessman, as well as the chairmen of Tunnan Jiacui Yundi Biotechnology Co Ltd. It’s in fact one of three parts—including the Dwarf Empire, Butterfly Park, and Space-time Square—of the larger World Butterfly Ecological Garden.
Chen was inspired to invest nearly 100-million yuan ($14.6) into creating the park after he was ‘touched’ by a batch of dwarfs he met on a train. He told AFP, “We felt their lives were hard and bad, so we wanted to build a great place for them to live and a platform for them to work.” Added to that, he ensures the profits go toward higher salaries and improved living conditions.
The Dwarf Empire currently hosts a staff of over 100 dwarfs, each of who receives a free room, free English lessons, and a weekly wage anywhere between 800 to 2000 yuan, or $117-293. Of the 100 or so dwarfs currently employed at the theme park, 70% used to live life as street tramps. Take for instance Qu Zimin, 44, a former beggar who now serves as the king, or Yi Shaobo, 29, who faced “sneering neighbors and stares from strangers,” not to mention long-term unemployment, until he finally stumbled on the park.
During opening hours, the dwarfs perform for tourists, who pay 80 yuan ($12) for entry, by singing, dancing, doing magic tricks & acrobatics, and even putting on plays. While not entertaining guests, the dwarfs can partake in a plethora of extracurricular activities geared to benefit them, such as etiquette courses, counseling/therapy, and even searching for love like Ou Jielin, 24, who’s scheduled to soon marry a fellow employee.
With new dwarfs arriving daily, expansion is definitely on the owner’s mind. “We will build a team of 800 to 1,000 dwarves and make it the biggest wonderland for dwarves in the world,” Chen said to AFP. As for the actual jobs available, most involve performing, but a few additional tasks remain open for the timid: “running the canteen, making silk flowers, minding the stalls and working as tour guides.”
The Dwarf Kingdom theme park has become so popular that the World Peace Foundation, a UN-affiliated not-for-profit organization, is planning on filming a video based on it. Executive chairman Wang Mantang said, “We want to show the self-reliance of this special group and the importance of respect for every human being.”
There truly is nothing more beautiful in this world than someone going out of their way to help someone else. And in this case, Mr. Chen Mingjing isn’t just helping a single person; he’s helping an entire community.
For more information, check out this video, courtesy of Agence France-Presse.