The ticket, which includes a pop-up map, states: “Let the world know of China better, let us know of ourselves better.” This park was the first project completed in the Olympic Park, according to the brochure that we received when we entered the park. It is located very near the Olympic Park, although it was difficult to see the stadium and cube because the air pollution was very bad on the day Sue Mikula and I visited the park. We arrived at about 10:00 in the morning and began our adventure in the South section of the park. We had a little map to guide us but we found it rather confusing. We walked from one exhibit to the next but followed the loop on the lower level. We eventually walked around most of the North Park as well. Heading back to the South Park we were quite tired as we had been walking around for over two hours. Sue decided to rest while I climbed stairs to the upper level of the South Park; this is where I found the exhibit about the Uygur minority group. As we were almost out of time, I raced through the exhibit photographing all of the informational signs to read later. The question I asked myself both at the time and later was: who is the audience for this park/museum? It was obvious that an enormous amount of effort and expense had been required to produce this park and its exhibits, yet it was almost devoid of visitors. When I was looking at the Uygur exhibit, which was the most extensive of any I saw in the park, I was alone. So although the park advertises itself as being for “the world” or foreign visitors, few tourists make the effort to come to the park. If it is for the people of China to “know of ourselves better,” this has not been much of a success either as few locals were visiting the park. The ethnic performers had a limited audience and the shops lacked many people to purchase their wares. Despite a sense of melancholy that the park had attracted so few people, I was impressed by the Uygur exhibit. Although isolated in a corner of the park and then placed on an upper level that many visitors might miss, it was stunning. It included several houses representative of the region as well as a pagoda, and a store that was supposed to represent trade on the Silk Road. Having just completed teaching a course on the history of the Silk Road last semester, it was fascinating to imagine being in the locations that this famous trade route passed through in the far western regions of China. I admired the silk cloth that is still being made in the region using traditional designs. I love silk and it is a material that I always associate with China. I had just purchased a silk scarf the day before at a shopping opportunity associated with our expedition to the Great Wall. An ancient wall to keep potential troublemakers out of China, current policies to keep minorities in China despite separatist movements in the provinces, these issues are all around one as one walks the almost deserted paths of the park devoted to the minorities of China.
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