Chen Mingjing’s entrepreneurial instincts vaulted him from a peasant upbringing to undreamed-of wealth, acquired in ventures ranging from making electric meters to investing in real estate. But when he was 44, the allure of making money for money’s sake began to wane. He wanted to run a business that accomplished some good.
And so last September, Mr. Chen did what any socially aware entrepreneur might do: He opened a theme park of dwarfs, charging tourists about $9 a head to watch dozens of dwarfs in pink tutus perform a slapstick version of “Swan Lake” along with other skits.
Mr. Chen has big plans for his Kingdom of the Little People. Imagine a $115 million universe in miniature, set amid 13,000 acres of rolling hills and peaceful lakes in southern China’s Yunnan Province, with tiny dogs, tiny fruit trees, a 230-foot-high performance hall that looks like the stump of a prehistoric tree and standard-size guest cabins.
Also, a black BMW modified to resemble a flying saucer, from which dwarfs will spill forth to begin their performances.
“It will be like a fairy tale,” Mr. Chen said. “Everything here I have designed myself.”
The site is far from complete. So far, it mainly consists of the tree, 33 Dr. Seuss-style cottages with crooked chimneys where kingdom residents pretend to live and specially equipped dormitories where they actually reside. But it is already drawing its share of detractors.
Critics say displaying dwarfs is at best misguided and at worst immoral, a throwback to times when freak shows pandered to people’s morbid curiosity.
“Are they just going there to look at curious objects?” asked Yu Haibo, who leads a volunteer organization for the disabled in Jilin Province in the northeast.
“I think it is horrible,” said Gary Arnold, the spokesman for Little People of America Inc., a dwarfism support group based in California. “What is the difference between it and a zoo?” Even the term “dwarf” is offensive to some; his organization prefers “person of short stature.”