I hadn’t really known what to expect when I walked through the doors of the Ethnic Minority Museum in Beijing.
I was told by a friend that you had to go because it was really creepy. Creepy? I was in. I’d been searching for things that were out of the ordinary for a while and this had been one to cross off.
So finally, when I had a weekend off work, I took some time to explore the museum deemed by some to be a freak show celebrating China’s cultural differences.
Located near the Olympic Park, the Culture Park declares itself as a museum showing the harmonious society in which China’s 54 ethnic minorities live in.
I don’t know if any of you have checked the news recently but Xinjiang isn’t too harmonious right now. Neither is Tibet. And actually the regions near North Korea aren’t so harmonious either.
Ironically enough the park starts off with Xinjiang with a mock up of the house that most folk in Xinjiang usually live in. I know from people who have been, that Xinjiang is rich in culture, has its own beautiful language and music and the food is delicious.
But they seem to brush over the region of Xinjiang quite quickly. Missing everything that is beautiful about the region.
And then we move on to Mongolia.
Now this is where the fun begins. Throughout the day there are various performances in the different areas of the park, done by actual REAL people from these ethnic minorities. I managed to catch the end of the Mongolian singing performance.
Then you can go inside one of the yurts for some Mongolian cheese and milk and if you’re in the mood, you can even dress up like a real Mongolian….oh. Yes. That’s me.
The park includes disputed regions such as Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet. In fact Tibet was the nicest one of them all and the performance there included singing and dancing from the locals. All of the houses had museums in which you could learn more about Tibetan culture. There was also a gift shop for memorabilia purposes.
And then there were the Dai people from Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture who demonstrated many activities such as a skipping game that the audience could participate in.
The men and women did a traditional dance for the audience. And when they were done, they demonstrated a traditional water fight. It usually takes place at a specific time however these people have to do it several times a day for the paying guests. It made me wonder if they were having any fun at all.
I read on China Travel Guide that you should spend around two hours here but I think I actually spent around four. The park is separated into two parts, north and south and is connected by a pretty bridge. My favourite regions were definitely Tibet and Xishuangbanna although had the coffee shop been open in the ‘Taiwan province’ section that would have been a clear winner.
All in all, I would recommend a trip to the Ethnic Minority museum mainly to be able to understand that China is a big country but also to see how far the government goes to hide what life is like for everyday people.
Let’s look at it this way, the people that live in this bizarre park actually live there and are forced to perform like animals at a zoo. I can’t imagine anything like this existing in the western world. In fact I don’t think it would actually be allowed.
Take the park with a pinch of salt. Taiwan is not a province.
While it’s up to you to make up your mind about who owns what etc…. it’s obvious that there are some minorities in China that do not live in harmony and I found it somewhat sad that these people were being treated like tourist attractions so far away from home.
Entry into the museum is 90 RMB, get out at exit D of Beitucheng which is on both line 4 and line 10 of the Beijing subway. The park in the summer closes at 6pm. Most of the performances happen from 2pm-5pm in the afternoon. Dressing like a Mongolian is optional, although highly value for money at 20RMB for all you want to take photos. Yes this writer is still a 9 year old girl at heart.