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Controversial Tibet Theme Park Project Launched

Categories: East Asia, China, Development, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, History, Indigenous, Travel

Last month, the Chinese government announced [1] that it will launch a RMB 30 billion (USD 4.7 billion) theme park project in Tibet to attract tourists. The park will first be used as a shooting location for the movie Princess Wencheng, a story about the niece of a Tang-dynasty emperor who married a Tibetan king.

It is located on the outskirts of the city of Lhasa and will occupy 800 hectares of land. Tibetan dissidents have described the project as the “Disneyfication of Tibet [2]” rather than a genuine sharing and preservation of Tibetan culture.

Putting aside the political and ideological debates, even within circle of Han Chinese, the development project is highly controversial. Sina Weibo user @1690737580 posted some photos [3] [zh] she took from the designated theme park construction site and confessed she felt great pity for the loss of such an environment to the development:

Cijiaolin Village. Photos taken by Sina User @1690737580 [3]

Cijiaolin Village. Photos taken by Sina User @1690737580


Cijiaolin village is just 2 kilometres away from Lhasa city. According to the legend, this is where the Princess Wencheng and her servant settled down. This is a marvelous spot for Tibetans to take time out. It is surrounded by mountains and rivers, with a large piece of grassland. You can see the Potala Palace [4] [formerly the chief residence of the Dalai Lama] from there. Within three years, such scenery will be replaced by a so-called cultural park, the Princess Wencheng theme park, with a 4 star hotel. Of course there will be some advantage in developing tourism, but I really hope everything remains the same here.

At the Netease micro-blog, a forum [5] [zh] has been set up to collect netizens’ opinions on the issue. In support:

况勇 :我支持下拉萨,必定是一个不错的投资项目,政府只是推动者不可能拿很多钱出来,这是招商引资啊,多好!不但对本地旅游很有帮助还可以围绕这工程建设很多相关配套的基础建设如:马路啊大桥啊,对人民也是不错的。还能为拉萨造势使其成为国际旅游圣地。

@0147739241 [6]: I want to express my support for Lhasa. This must be a good project. The government as a facilitator cannot invest all the money, this is a call for investment. It not only helps the development of local tourism, but also a lot of construction projects such as roads and bridges. This is good for the people. Lhasa will be promoted to be an international tourism site.

bayniwffg :提倡文化传承是好事,但是就不敢保证这些款项是否能落到实处,杜绝铺张浪费,因为我国还有很多孩子吃不饱,睡不暖,上不了学的。

@bayniwffg [7]: It is good to provide heritage. Just not sure if the fund really will go to the right spot or will be wasted. We still have many kids who are starving and who can't afford education.

Below are some opinions from netizens who are against the project:

Potala Palace in Lhasa has always been a touristic attraction in Tibet. Photo by Flickr user Jamie Barras (CC: NC-SA) [8]

Potala Palace in Lhasa has always been a touristic attraction in Tibet. Photo by Flickr user Jamie Barras (CC: NC-SA)

行色匆匆 :不应该建主题公园。拉萨本身就具有良好的原生态自然资源、民族风情和人文气息,不需要再搞神马主题公园这种人为景观、风情来招客,如果搞了非但招不了游客,还将拉萨、西藏原本在人们心目中的良好印象给破坏掉,游客反而会减少,而且还造成投资浪费。

@xsccld187 [9]: We should not build the theme park. Lhasa has rich natural resources, ethnic character and culture. No need to use theme parks and artificial constructions to attract tourists. If the project fails, it will ruin people's positive image of Lhasa and the number of tourists will drop. Eventually this will be a waste.

乌云遮不住太阳 :做正事一分钱都没有,到处哭穷,乱七八糟的事,哪都不差钱

@410753237 [10]: when we need money for the right cause, you cry and say you are so poor. For a messy project like this, you have all the money.

老鼠皇帝首席村妇 :去西藏是为了离天堂和灵魂更近一点,是希望感受那里的纯净的山水和执着的信仰,我们要看的是真实的活着的西藏,而不是这些打着文化的牌的恶俗的无风格不气质的人造景观。300亿?还是省下来为改善民生做点实在的事儿吧。

@ratpetty [11]: The reason for us to travel to Tibet is to get closer to heaven and the spiritual world, to experience the purity of belief surrounded by mountains and rivers. We want to see the real living Tibet not the artificial and vulgar construction under the euphemism of culture and art. RMB 30 billion? Spend it on the people and improve their livelihood.