Drive north along the Badaling Expressway for about 25 miles to Changping County, take the Chenzhuang exit and you will set eyes on a magical vision of archaic Western buildings and castles rising out of the farmland (see below for public transportation directions). Don’t worry, this isn’t some drug-induced episode, but Beijing’s answer to Disneyland, or rather the abandoned version of it.
This is one of the city’s forgotten landmarks; a source of much curiosity for passers-by, and the sort of place the Scooby-Doo gang might battle a headless popcorn seller.
Back in 1998, local company Reignwood Group invested in a massive theme park project set to span over 120 acres. Its aim was to create the biggest amusement park in Asia. However, financial problems stalled the scheme in its infancy; almost a decade and a half later, the developers have still to reach an agreement with local farmers on the rights to the land.
In the mid-2000s, Reignwood executives seemed poised to restart the project, but the local government and farmers raised the stakes as land prices had been rising ahead of the Olympics. The company refused and the project was left in limbo again.
Today, the park lies rotting, a monument to unrealised grand plans, while photographers travel to take shots of a dreamland that remains little more than the stuff of dreams.