Splendid China Florida, USA was a $100 million version of China in miniature, spread over 76 intricately landscaped acres. The park includes a half-mile-long replica of the Great Wall, 60 scale replica Chinese temples and palaces, a big cat show, and scads of contortionists.
Located in Four Corners, Florida, near Orlando and Disney World, this theme park opened its doors for the first time in 1993 and was the site of fun and recreation until its closure. The park was named Splendid China after its sister theme park with the same name in Shenzhen, China, which remains open to visitors today.
History of Splendid China Theme Park
The idea for Splendid China here in Florida was that of Josephine Chen, a Taiwanese-American school teacher, and real estate developer. The thought was the park would be a great means for cultural exchange between China and the United States. Josephine traveled to China in 1988 and was welcomed by officials of the China Travel Services(CTS), a government agency. They gave her a tour of a prototype park, “Splendid China Miniature Scenic Spot” located in Shenzhen.
On December 19, 1989, construction on the Florida branch of Splendid China began. Some four years later in December 1993, the Chinese Government bought the American partners.
This graceful quality was the main attraction for some and the biggest issue for others. Splendid China was actually owned by an agency of the Chinese government, which led many local Floridians to decry the displays in the park as nothing more than propaganda, especially in regard to its depiction of many Tibetan and Mongolian structures. While the park was in operation it saw repeated protests and even a campaign to disallow school field trips to the park.
The park also faced an issue with its own performers. When Splendid China opened it featured dozens of the best Chinese dancers, jugglers, and acrobats. However after a number of the Chinese citizens escaped the park and declared asylum in the US, the park began hiring local talent.
In 1996, the decision was made to change the name of the theme park to Chinatown. But protests did not abate; the brother of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Takster Rinpoche, attended the 20th demonstration at Florida Splendid China.
In 1999, the Far East Economic Review reported that Florida Splendid China was losing about $9 million per year. So, inevitably, the announcement came that the theme park was heading toward closure in May of 2000.
On December 31, 2003, Splendid China closed due to the low attendance during the post-Sept. 11th depression. A year later, around December 2004, many of the park’s assets were auctioned off including many of the miniature figurines and statues. The property was sold to a redevelopment firm in May 2005. Since then, the park has sat in a state of disrepair as vandals have made it their playground. Though there is a security presence on-site, Osceola County deputy sheriffs have responded to nearly 100 times for calls about trespassers, suspicious persons, and juveniles jumping over the fences.
In April 2013 news came out that the park and hotel were to be demolished in order to make way for Condos. Much had been demolished, and one of the restrooms that ran up against the wall was gone. Splendid China has been entirely torn down and replaced by a housing development. This is now the site of Margaritaville Resort Orlando.