The Ruins of ‘Wonderland,’ Where China Hoped to Rival Disneyland

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REUTERS / David Gray

A building in the shape of a castle stands uncompleted in a field in what would have been an amusement park called 'Wonderland', on the outskirts of Beijing December 5, 2011.

A short distance outside Beijing, in a bleak-looking 100-acre area of former corn fields off the main road to the Great Wall of China, sits a bizarre sight: the eerie, skeletal ruins of once-grand plans for the largest amusement park in Asia.

Protruding from the grim landscape like a modern-day equivalent of an ancient abandoned city, the remains – somber steel shells and bare castle towers – have been immortalized by David Gray, a Reuters photographer who visited recently.

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“All these structures of rusting steel and decaying cement, are another sad example of property development in China involving wasted money, wasted resources and the uprooting of farmers and their families,” he reflected after picturing the site.

The construction of “Wonderland,” planned to contain a palace, castle and indoor playground, ground to a halt a decade ago after developers, farmers and the local government disagreed over land prices.

It is one of many casualties of China’s rapid urbanization and another cautionary tale in the nation’s story of land seizures, property price bubbles and debt-fueled development — which some predict will soon pierce the country’s economic ascendancy.

Perhaps the only bright note in this particular tale: the farmers who were originally displaced from their land for the project have returned and begun growing crops again in the shadow of the ruins.

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