The Wonderland Amusement Park on the outskirts of Beijing, China was planned as the biggest theme park in Asia, spanning a massive 120 acres. Located in Chenzhuang Village in the Changping District, the never-completed amusement park was just 20 minutes away from Beijing. It was conceived by the Thai-Chinese property developer Reignwood Group with hopes of drawing from a population of over 20 million people. Reignwood already had significant interests in China including the distribution rights to the Red Bull energy drink. It was hoped that Wonderland could become the flagship property of the company’s portfolio.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. In 1998, construction was stopped suddenly and the site left abandoned. Rumours about why the builders left swept the country with some saying that the area was haunted while others suggested the finding of mass graves. The truth was a case of simple economics. Those involved in the project simply ran out of money and when additional sources of income were not forthcoming, Wonderland was left in a half built state, decaying and derelict.
The original idea for the park was to create a Disneyland style theme park for China and the castle at the centre of the theme park is reminiscent of the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella castles in Disney parks around the world. Other themed areas had similarities to Disney’s theme parks and it was suggested that the designers simply copied the designs thinking that the Disney company wouldn’t be able to protest against their copyright usage in China. What they weren’t expecting was that Disney were in talks with the government of Hong Kong to build a park there. The agreement was signed in 1999, a year after China’s Wonderland became abandoned and unfinished. Disney were later to announce a park in mainland China with Shanghai Disneyland beginning construction in 2011. It opened in June 2016.
In the years following the abandonment, the farmers in the area surrounding the proposed theme park simply reclaimed the land for themselves and began raising livestock and growing crops amongst the unfinished attractions. The remains of the castle, which was to be the centrepiece of the amusement park, towered over them leaving a stark reminder of the Wonderland that never was. Being the the largest and tallest structure in the theme park, the castle suffered most due to exposure to the inclement weather of the region with parts of the partially built building collapsing into rubble as the years progressed. The other buildings such as a medieval themed village began to become overgrown with vegetation and nature began to reclaim the area. Many superstitions arose from the story of why the builders left, including that of ghosts haunting a burial site which had been unearthed during construction. Economically though, the amusement park simply seems to have been a victim of China’s property bubble.
Attempts were made to revive the project in 2008 but those efforts stalled. China’s Wonderland was eventually demolished in 2013. Attempts by Reignwood Group to build a luxury goods supermarket never materialised and eventually, a shopping mall called The Badaling Outlets was opened in Summer 2015. Beijing will be getting a state of the art theme park when Universal Beijing opens soon!