Abandoned: Wonderland Amusement Park, The “Fake Disneyland” of Beijing, China (Photos)

Wonderland castle

Previously: Williams Grove Amusement Park.

In the Changping District of China, some 20 miles outside of Beijing, the ruins of an abandoned castle once rose out of the desolate landscape. The castle was surrounded by the equally barren remains of a small medieval town — except, of course, neither the castle nor the town were ever real. They were what was left of Wonderland Amusement Park, the “Fake Disneyland” of China that died before it was ever fully alive.

Construction on Wonderland began sometime in the ‘90s, when Thai-owned property developer the Reignwood Group announced its plan to build the largest amusement park in Asia. Seated across 120 acres, it would have outstripped Japan’s Tokyo Disneyland by five acres. It’s worth nothing that it might not have been able to hold onto that title; had it ever been finished, it still would have been dwarfed by the 176-acre Tokyo DisneySea, which opened in 2001, and 2005’s Hong Kong Disney, which covers 320 acres. At the time, though, it stood poised to become a top attraction… until the plan went south.

wonderland exterior

wonderland town 2

Accounts differ as to exactly what caused the issue. According to some, the trouble was that no one could agree on how much the land on which Wonderland was to stand was worth; others, however, state that the park was largely to be situated on forestry land, and with major floods having changed the policy to protect the lands, the Reignwood Group was required to reevaluate their plans. Either way, though, construction ground to a halt in 1998, with the strife continuing through the early 2000s. There was an attempt to begin construction again in 2008; alas, though, it also failed, leaving the half-built theme park never fully realized.

iO9 once described Wonderland as “a post-apocalyptic Magic Kingdom,” which is just about as accurate as it gets. Like Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA, the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL, and any other Disney property built on the original Disneyland model, a fantasy castle full of towers and spires was to have been the centerpiece of Wonderland; meanwhile, the overall medieval theme suggests what might happen if the Fantasyland portions of Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom took over the parks completely. Wonderland lacked, however, the key element of any theme park: Rides. Construction never got far enough along to have more than the beginnings of a lonely rollercoaster twisting up through the mist.

It’s hard to miss the symbolism of a dreamland only partially constructed and subsequently falling into disrepair, isn’t it?

wonderland castle bike

wonderland bike

The Bohemian Blog manage to finagle a trip onto the grounds of Wonderland in March of 2013, providing what’s probably the most complete look at the insides of the buildings on the Internet; the photographs are worth a look, at once beautiful and saddening…

…And all the more so when you realize that the park itself was demolished shortly after they were taken. In April of 2013, Wonderland’s remains were torn down, leaving nothing more than a few foundations to mark where the folly had once stood. At the time, there were plans to build a shopping center on the site, although those plans appear not to have come to fruition yet.

wonderland inside

wonderland town

And so Wonderland Amusement Park’s conflicted history draws to an end. The last remaining pieces of it have vanished as if they were the whisps of dream — the kind you struggle to hang onto as you wake.  At least someone managed to capture it before it was gone completely, though; the nice thing about dreams is that you can always revisit them if you like.

[Photos: JoeInSouthernCA (1, 2, 3), Tormod Sandtorv (1, 2), JLim02/Flickr; Bertrouf/Wikimedia Commons]

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