The first of the OCT theme parks, Splendid China opened its doors in 1989 with the objective of showing all of China’s main tourist attractions in miniature. We first visited it shortly after it opened and were immediately entranced, not the least in those days because the miniature replicas were so much better than the real thing. The Cultural Revolution’s legacy was still with us in the form of neglected and destroyed cultural sites and we figured that this was the best way to get to know them.
Then an interlude of a couple of decades intervened until recently we decided to go back and see how they’d fared.
Good news and bad news.
The good news was that the gardens in which the park was built had matured. We wandered contentedly through stands of banyan, palms and bauhinia in full bloom. The lakes were clean, the rivers and streams flowed, and the grass was green. Truly a very pleasant experience.
The bad news. Well, we don’t want to overstate this but Splendid China was previously known for the meticulous nature of its maintenance. Teams of uniformed gardeners literally cut the lawn with scissors. Now ..they’ve obviously got too expensive and the lawn mowing is done by motor mower. But it doesn’t seem to occur to anybody that the bits, which the machines can’t reach, have to be done by hand. So the courtyards of the Suzhou gardens look a tiny bit overgrown and the Three Gorges are positively shabby.
But the paint is regularly applied, critical in this tropical climate, and the general impression is very pleasing. We were particularly happy with the state of the miniature historical figures. Each display has a multitude of tiny historical figures done in glazed porcelain in the particular style of the Foshan Shiwan Ceramics Works that has been making figures like these for millennia. They are clean and well maintained and add a lively and lifelike touch to static displays.
Splendid China used to be a substitute mini-tour of China for those not up to the rigours of China travel. This no longer applies. Travel in China is no longer onerous. Most of the places reproduced in the theme park have now been restored to their previous glory, and hotels and travel are now almost civilised. There are exceptions of course. To see the temples in the Three Gorges display you would need to have either a time machine or scuba gear as they are now all under water behind the Three Gorges Dam. But the Park still has an important role to play. There are few other places where you can see so much of Chinese history and culture presented in one place together. The beautiful park setting is a bonus.
Like the other OCT parks, Splendid China has theatrical shows. They’re more cultural and less populists than those in the other parks. One demonstrates national and imperial costumes across the millennia against a background of poetry. Another highly spectacular one is based on the 17th century overthrow of the Ming Dynasty by the Qing. Unlike the other parks, Splendid China shows only take place during the day.
Note that entry to Splendid China also gives you access to China Folk Customs Village
Address Shennan Ave OCT
Open 9 am 9.30 pm Entry is $120
Metro: Hua Qiao Cheng line 1, Exit D Buses 101,113,201,204,209,223,301