Miniature Anhui – diminutive buildings, magnified issues

I’ve passed it on the bus dozens of times and I mean baker’s dozens not regular dozens. The front entrance is marked by five towers shaped like lotus stems and pods. Behind the fences I could see old style buildings and from what I read online they were replicas of historical and cultural sites throughout Anhui Province. I had been told to not visit and also that I should take the fieldtrip. I finally did it.

This week, after two previously foiled attempts over the last couple of weeks (once because of the droves of school buses out front that scared me away and the other because it had closed for the day), Aaron and I made our way to the Hui Garden or Hui Yuan. Located not far from my school, across the street from the aquarium, Hefei’s amusement park and the convention center, Hui Yuan is basically a “world’s fair” for Anhui Province.

The park is divided into many sections, each representing a different region of the province and what can be found there. Fortunately, there were some English signs so we knew what we were looking at. Each area had a pavilion like you would find at a world expo highlighting that region some including replicas of local attractions.

Most of the pavilion-like buildings had collections of arts and crafts from their region and told some of the history, not translated to English. However, most of these buildings looked like they hadn’t really been touched or improved upon or anything since first opened. Some looked more like gift shops and basically were.

The most disappointing thing for me was the apparent disinterest with the presentation and sharing the culture and history that has made the province. After all, that is why they built this park, but it doesn’t help when they don’t even turn on the lights in the galleries or turn on the water features. They simply don’t seem to care and make no effort to attempt caring.

Even though there weren’t as many school buses as the week before, there were still hordes of school kids roaming the park in their matching jackets, hats or bandanas. When they saw us many began yelling “hello” or “MeiGuoRen” (American) or “YingGuo” (England). We tried to steer clear of the masses since they wanted to point, shout and mob. Usually, when they would yell American, Aaron would yell back ZhongGuoRen or Chinese person.

Tangent: China is a dirty place when it comes to litter. Everyone seems to just drop their trash on the ground no matter where they are. This is the case all over, the city, small towns and the countryside. It really is quite despicable to see someone drop their rubbish on the ground when there is a waste basket two feet behind them. 

You may wonder when this behavior begins. Well, as I witnessed at Hui Yuan, it starts at an early age. We were there at lunch time and saw the aftermath of the fieldtrip lunch time. I didn’t get a picture but did get a video so hopefully I can post that soon. I have other very clear examples but maybe that will be another post. 

It varies a bit by city. Certainly, bigger cities appear to be cleaner, but there are still areas there where the litter lines the streets and gardens. So far the cleanest city I’ve visited is Nanjing.

Anyway, back to the park.  After meandering round and about the park, through the swarms of younglings and passing oxymoronic images (signs that say “no paddling” next to paddle boats,” visit my Photobucket album of Chinese signs to see it), we left the park. After seeing the poorly cared for reconstructions I found a desire to go find some of the originals. I hope to make the trips soon.

The last building we visited is the planning hall, meaning the plans and future of Hefei. Well, maybe when it was built but since it has become historic. The model was extremely rudimentary especially compared with the model in Shanghai and super out-dated. I’ve only been here a matter of months and I can point out inaccuracy after in accuracy. I guess it’s hard to keep up when you are constantly building but as far as I understand it, it is all centrally planned so they knew about it and could have included it in the model.

The Anhui Province pavilion from the 2010 Shanghai World Expo that I wrote about in December is technically a part of the park, but a separate admission is required for it.

It took just a couple of hours, 20 RMB and lots of patience of being stared, pointed and shouted at, but now I can say I’ve been there. After all, there are only a handful of things to see in Hefei so I better do as many as possible while I’m here. And, I now know what lies beyond the towering lotus pods.