THE DWARF EMPIRE 小人国 ·
SANNE DE WILDE
THE DWARF EMPIRE In the Chinese province Yunnan, close to the beautiful Dianchi lake, exists a magic land in the ancient forest where the dwarves live. This is the Land of Dwarves in the World Ecological Garden of Butterfly. The dwarves are diligent, friendly, talented and brave. They have their own capital, their own king, Ministry of Foreign Affaires, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Culture and their own army. 小人国 在中国云南、在昆明美丽的滇池湖边、在一片原始森林里，有一个由上百矮人族群组成的 梦幻国度—它就是世界蝴蝶生态园·“小人国”。这里的小矮人们勤劳、善良、多才多 艺、英勇无畏。他们拥有自己的国度，拥有自己的国王、自己的军队、外交部、御膳厨房 和臣民⋯⋯.
Dear Visitor, the World Ecological Garden of Butterfly and the Dwarf Empire welcome you! The Dwarf Empire is very grateful for the sympathy and support of all the people in the world. Every morning and afternoon our emperor and his subjects will offer you a spectacular show.
To capture. 为了捕捉。 For the atmosphere. 的气氛。 Can I make photos in the dressing room? 我可以在更衣室里的照片？ Can I follow you today/this afternoon? 我可以按照你今天/今天下午吗？ Can I come to your house and make a portrait of you there? 我可以到你家，使你的肖像？ Can you take me with you while you do your usual things? 你能带你我，而你做你平常的事情吗？ Can I photograph that? 我可以拍照吗？ I want to tell an intimate story about normal beautiful things. 对正常美丽的东西，我想告诉亲密的故事。 Can you act like I am not there? 你可以像我不在那里？ Can you take off that? Can you put on that? 你能起飞吗？你可以把该？ Can you wear your most comfortable/special clothes? 你可以穿你最舒适的/特殊的衣服？ Can you pose together? 你可以一起构成？ Can you put your head a bit more to the left/right? 你可以把你的头位，左/右？ Can you look this way? 你可以这样看吗 ? Can you (not) look into the lens? 你可以（不）直视镜头？ Can you do that one more time, just like before? 你可以做更多的时间，像以前一样吗？ DON’T SMILE. 不笑
In southern China, near Kunming -the city of eternal spring- exists a theme park that is home to 77 little people. The inhabitants present a song-and-dance show twice a day. This promised land was founded by a tall, rich man who was determined to â€˜do something goodâ€™ for the little people. Chinese charity dressed in commercial attire. The faĂ§ade of this empire, with its walls of synthetic material, permanently seems on the verge of collapse. Nevertheless, the empire holds its ground. I embarked on an adventure with a handful of ethical questions about commercialising social care. Every story has two sides but in this place every question and every answer seemed contradictory. My adventure ended up as a modern (anti)fairytale, a collection of images of my making, and theirs. My own trick forced upon myself.
Hello! My name is Feng Jinmei, I am twentythree years old and I come from Wenshan in the Yunnan province. I lived in that mountain village ever since I was little. The living conditions where not very good at home and I lived a hard life as a child. The reason for that was not that the circumstances were difficult, but my bad health. My parents had a lot to worry about because of me, running around everywhere looking for a doctor that could make me better. After years of treatment I was finally cured and the whole family was able to live happily. But the happiness didn’t last for long and the unthinkable happened. When I was in the fifth grade misfortune knocked on our door once more: my beloved mother was struck by a severe illness… My father wanted my mother to heal quickly, so he left the house every day very early with her in search of a doctor, and came home very late each evening. He brought my mother everywhere for medical examinations. As a consequence we didn’t only lose money but also our parents. After fighting the disease for two years my mother left us, and this beautiful world, forever. On Chinese New-Year we saw everyone welcoming the new year with a cheerful and happy spirit, welcoming a new dawn, a better morning, but we didn’t know at all if we would find that better day too. Sometimes I would look at the other children, bringing their clothes to their mother when they were torn, so she would repair them, or if their clothes were dirty, their mother would wash them and if they were sick their mother would take them to the doctor to be treated… But me, my three sisters and my brother had lost that gentle mother love forever.
But time flies and in the blink of an eye ten years have passed: my father has grown old, my younger sister has gotten married and my little brother, if he works hard, can start his studies at the university in July. My grandparents are almost eighty years old, so I’ve become the strength and support of the family. Although I now live in the Dwarf Empire with everyone in perfect harmony as brother and sister, and many nice things have happened, I can’t forget the sadness that lives in my heart. The truth is that when the sun comes up and casts its rays of light upon the four wind directions and others are having fun, I am sad. When others are happy, my eyes fill with tears. I hope good times are awaiting me too. Oh! I don’t want to keep remembering the grief of the old days, what I really wanted to say is that I’m very grateful that the whole world wants to help and support us, and most of all I want to thank the head of the board of management for founding this lovely park for us so we can, in this big place we call home, live a happy life. Here we get attention and help of the whole world and that is why we wish all people a peaceful and happy life from the bottom of our hearts. Feng Jinmei May 9, 2011
Dear Sanne, Hello, I’m very pleased to meet you, to have gotten to know you during this period of time. Most of the people here have started a profound friendship with you. It’s the kind of friendship that transcends nationality and race. I wish that our friendship could exist forever. You travelled all the way to China on your own – this is something that requires a lot of courage. I welcome you! Or to say it with an ancient proverb: “Having friends come from afar, isn’t that a joyful thing?” I hope you had a wonderful time here. I’m writing you this letter since you’re leaving soon and I want you to get to know me better. I come from a small town in the Hunan province. I lived a very easy life without worries, but from the moment I started to understand life, I succumbed to my fears. I didn’t have any self-confidence because of the pressure from the outside world. I couldn’t bare the mocking smiles and gazes of other people; it made me feel bad for my parents. Although it wasn’t all on purpose, I still couldn’t confront it. I couldn’t go and stroll in the streets by myself, because I cared about what people would think of me. But from the moment I started school, I felt less and less inferior because I learned a lot from my teachers; I became more confident. Before coming to the Butterfly Garden, I worked in my village and thus had to face social and work-related stress. When I arrived at the Butterfly Garden, I had a feeling I’ve never had before: it was as if I had found my true home. Facing people like me, talking and laughing with each other; I couldn’t wait to hang out with them. There’s no discrimination here, nor too much work-related stress, only people living in harmony with each other.
I’ve been living here for one year now, and I think it’s not bad at all. I’d really like to stay here. We’re all really sad about you leaving. It would be so great if you could speak Chinese! I wish you all the best with your work and I hope that it won’t be too troublesome! Your friend, Ding Shaoming May 10, 2011
Hi Sanne! My name is Zhang Qi. I come from Yueyang in the Hunan province and I was born on the 23th of November, 1991. Six years after I was born something sad happened to me: in the year 1996 my mother accidentally caught a disease and died! I was still very young at that time so I didn’t understand very well what had happened to me and at that time I didn’t feel very bad. But as I got older I started to realise what had happened. And again something unfortunate happened to me: I became aware of the fact that I was much smaller than everyone else. These two unfortunate things almost made my father and I have a nervous breakdown... The death of my mother alone was already... But we got through it and then heaven came to torment me again! When I had reached the age to go to school my family supported me to finish the obligatory nine-year study program. After that I didn’t go to school anymore. After I finished those nine years I just stayed at home. I spent almost a whole year at home like this. During a rare occasion while watching television, I learned that there existed a place where a lot of dwarves lived together. This was the Dwarf Empire where I now work. I contacted them and slowly but surely I left home and came to work in the land of Dwarves and little by little the unhappy memories faded! These are my experiences and I know I’m not a good writer so I hope Sanne won’t laugh at me! Thanks! Zhang Qi May 11, 2011
Once upon a time Lin Xinpeng told me I had a moustache. He gestured enthusiastically towards my upper lip. I told him it was really rude to say that to a girl. I knew he wouldn’t understand what I was saying, but he read my expression. I cast him an offended look but on the inside I was smiling because he was brave enough to tell me the truth. He said ‘I’m solly, I’m solly’ and ran away. He came back with a strange, Google-translated Chinese saying written in the palm of his hand. He took a photo of me, sitting in front of the little house, and sent it to me. He had photoshopped butterflies fluttering around me.
Hello dear Sanne! It’s been so busy lately. There never was a quiet moment to write you my story. I’m so sorry about that. You’ve asked me so many times to write my experiences to you, but even now I don’t really know where to start. I don’t think my experiences are that exciting; I’ve always lived my life rather quietly. When I think of my childhood, there were both happy and sad moments. Of course things often happened because of my body, which made me sad. Even though it was only people laughing at me or looking at me strangely, it nonetheless hurt my feelings. I think this is a pain that every short person has to deal with. When I grew older, the problems caused by my height became more and more clear. Every one grew up, but I never grew taller than a seven or eight-year-old. We went to the hospital many times, but none of the treatments seemed to work. It happened more and more often that people stared at me, asked me how old I was, or laughed at me. I reckoned that as long as I lived in this world, these kinds of situations would never cease to happen. But life goes on and these worries never stopped me from hoping for a happy life. Thanks to my hard work I finally found a job that suited me, in a clothing company. I also found my husband in that place. We first met on the Internet and we share the same disease. He was worrying about a job at that moment and I suggested him to apply at the company I worked for. When I think about it, it never really was love at first sight with us, we just got to know each other very slowly during work and eventually we fell in love with each other. It is because of him that
I am so happy; he makes me feel I can live the same life as any one else. After we fell in love, we thought we should try to live a better life, a better developed one, and earn more money. So we started looking on the Internet for companies that hired dwarfs. That’s how we learned about this touristic area in Yunnan province that was looking to hire dwarfs. But the distance between Yunnan and Beijing is 3,000 kilometres, and since we had never even travelled much further than our own hometown, our parents didn’t support our plan. It was because they loved us and they feared that we were being deceived or that we weren’t going to find the right place. But we are not children anymore and you can’t live your whole life under your parents’ wings. We persisted and this moved our parents so much that they gave us their blessing to move to Yunnan. June 2009. We were finally in Yunnan and joined the World Ecological Butterfly Garden-team. There were only people like us there, no one who laughed at us or discriminated us because of our height. We were all equals. It was as if destiny had brought every one from all over the country together in this place. And it was in this paradise that we started a new life. Although we now have left this place, I still often reminisce about our happy time there. I’m so happy that I have lived there for two years, I’ve met so many friends. And I also met you, dear Sanne. I will tell you why I left: since it was a touristic spot, holidays were our most busy periods, which meant that we could never go back home to celebrate Chinese New Year with our families.
I missed my parents so much, and the longer we lived there the more I missed them. So my husband and I decided to go back to the place where we grew up: Beijing. Back in my hometown, my wandering heart was finally at ease. We found a new job in Beijing. So I welcome you Sanne, to come to Beijing and visit us. I will treat you warmly as my guests. Yang Lichun May 17, 2012
Dearest Sanne, You probably remember who I am, indeed, I’m the girl who helped you translate. My name is Wu Xiaoling, I’m 19 years old and I come from the small city Zhaotong in the Yunnan province. I’m a cheerful person and although I like the hustle and bustle of things, sometimes I just like to have a peaceful moment. Here I’ll give you a short summary of several events that took place before I ended up here. I was born in a town close to the village I grew up in, my father is an administrative associate and my mother is a typical housewife. I also have a younger sister, who is of normal size and very pretty and cute. From the moment I started school I realized I was different from the others. In order for people to look at me with admiration and no longer with contempt I had to find a way to stand out among people in a different way. That’s why I was always the best of my class. Even before I entered the higher cycle of high school, my future seemed bright and filled with trust and longing. My dream was to become a doctor because I wanted to do research about incurable diseases. I knew I was smart enough to pass the entry exam of my dream-university and so I did, I actually passed the exam. I visited the campus light-hearted, but when I arrived there, I understood that reality is cruel. After three days of considerate reflection I decided not to go to university. I didn’t know whether I would regret the choice I made that day. And now I do regret it. A dark period in my life began until I found this place on the internet. When I decided to come here my parents gave me their full support and
I’ve met a lot of friends here. Of course the living conditions are hard, but still I wouldn’t want to leave this place, because I can’t live without the people here. Sanne, in these ten days we got to know each other I started liking you more and more! I hope there’s a chance that I will see you again. I will never forget you! Wu Xiaoling May 12, 2011
Hello Sanne, I come from the Tonghai district, located close to the city Yuxi in the Yunnan province. I’m a man, from Han minority, one meter tall, a minihuman. I’m forty-eight years old and when I was nine both my parents died. I graduated from the lower cycle of high school. I did interim jobs to earn my living for several years. Later, when the government introduced the Opendoor-policy, the society developed very quickly. When my village founded the Civil Company for social welfare I did a job-interview there. I worked in this place for twenty years until it went bankrupt and thus I got fired. Eventually I decided to transport passengers with my tuktuk. Later on, I bought a second bike and these two means of transport became my workinstruments and my source of income. Driving was a respectable and easy way to work but the risks where still high for me. Some of the people that I transported were of bad character and didn’t pay; some even robbed me from the money I had worked so hard for. If I wasn’t careful it could have cost me my life, and on top of that I used to love drinking a glass or two, which worried my family. They asked me several times to look for another job and this is the reason why I came to work in the Land of Dwarves. Our chairman of the board of directors, Chen Mingjing, uses the thoughts of Mao Zedong and theories by Deng Xiaoping to focus on while creating the policy of the Dwarf Empire. In the village of Heiqiaomu in the municipality of Biji in the region of the Western Mountains by Kunming in Yunnan, he drew a circle and wrote a poem in it. He has put a lot of effort in constructing, with much difficulty, the road to the world greatest
touristic butterfly park. He is the representative of the theme park, he is the designer of the theme park, he is the one we depend on for our maintenance. I cherish this good place. Finally I wish that our chairman of the board of directors, together with the employees of the Land of Dwarves, could really lead the Dwarf Empire to become the richest country on earth. Sincerely, Pi Fa’En May 8, 2011
‘Waterfall #1’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Wedding Picture Of Miss Yang #1’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Man Holding Gun’ Poster #1 - Photographer unknown.
‘Three Dwarfs, Three Angels’ - By Izzy.
‘Shen Jianying Holding Her Phone’ - By Izzy.
‘Pink Lollipop’ Poster #2 - Photographer unknown.
‘Couple With Flowers’ Poster #3 - Photographer unknown.
‘Waterfall #2’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Ding Shaoming’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Waterfall #3’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Good Person’ - By Lin Xinpeng.
‘Pi Fa’en’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Li Haiyin’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Wedding Picture Of The Emperor’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Red Curtain’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Monster’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Clouds’ - By Izzy.
‘Girl With Blue Bow’ Poster #4 - Photographer unknown.
‘Tree Of Life’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Wedding Picture Of Miss Yang #2’ - Photographer unknown.
‘Misty Mountain’ - By Mister Cheng.
‘The Show’ - By Kang Xiangwei.
Sanne De Wilde