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A New Beginning for The Great World
Date:2/27/2017 12:20:04 AM

Shanghai's oldest indoor amusement park Dashijie, or The Great World, will be reopening in early March, more than a decade since it closed down due to poor management.
However, the venue - it used to be the largest of its kind in the city - will not reprise its role as an amusement park but as a venue that showcases intangible cultural heritages from around the world.
"Shanghai has no lack of places for fun or amusement today. The mission of The Great World has now taken on a new significance," said Xie Jun, the spokeswoman of the park, which is now under the charge of the Huangpu district government.
Comprising three four-story buildings and two wings, the park had for decades been a prominent landmark in Shanghai because of its iconic multi-layered hexagon tower that features 12 yellow pillars. The venue was so famous that tourists would often say that a trip to Shanghai wasn't complete until one had visited The Great World.
Historical records show that the park's average daily visitorship in the 1950s, the period following decades of war and instability, was 10,000 people. During the Spring Festival of 1955, the number of visitors peaked at 40,000 a day.
Upon reopening, the park will showcase 50 types of intangible cultural and experts will be on-site to demonstrate their skills.
"The inheritors of these heritages will perform on a rotational basis and we will be inviting as many of these inheritors as possible so that visitors can experience all the different heritages without having to travel around the world," said Xie, who noted that this new concept is aligned with the park's original purpose when it was built a century ago.
The park was immensely popular among locals and tourists till the 1990s when the country reopened its doors to the world and saw an influx of additional forms of entertainment such as karaoke and video games.
"Things were much simpler back then. When I was a child, I could stand in front of the distorting mirrors and laugh at my reflection for minutes," said a 76-year-old Shanghai native surnamed Zheng.
The same 12 mirrors that used to be source of laughter for Zheng were one of the highlights of the park and they will remain in their original positions in the compound.
Zheng, a retired bus driver, had gone to the park on the first day of its soft opening at the end of December, but was left disappointed as the venue was only open to members of the media and invited guests.
"Among so many historical relics and buildings that are considered iconic in my hometown, The Great World is the one I personally feel most connected to. It's one of the few that was accessible to us ordinary people. Our childhood memories are embedded in every one of its bricks," said Zheng.
However, Zheng admits that he will not be visiting the park as often as he used to when it reopens.
"I don't think I need to see the different forms of cultural heritages so regularly. Besides, it's so easy to travel and see the world these days," he added.
Established by tobacco tycoon Huang Chujiu in 1917, who was notorious for having made his fortune by tricking people into buying local medication at the price of imported ones, The Great World was built to be a multi-faceted amusement park featuring Western cafes, cinemas, fun fairs, Chinese tea houses and traditional opera theaters.
According to local media reports, crowd numbers at The Great World started to decline around 1998 when it faced competition from the newly built Shanghai Jinjiang Amusement Park. The new entertainment venue in southwest Shanghai, which had cost 90 million yuan ($13.09 million) to construct, was then the largest outdoor amusement park in the country.
Furthermore, the traditional opera performances at The Great World were no longer appealing to the younger generation of the city. The park management was also unable to expand its facilities or revamp the site because the architecture had been designated as a historical relic for preservation by the municipal government.
The combination of these factors proved to be the demise for the once popular entertainment venue, with average daily visitor numbers dwindling to a paltry 100 by 2003. During weekday mornings, there would at times be less than 10 visitors in the park.
A ticket to the 14,000-square-meter park was priced at 0.2 yuan, equivalent to about 30 yuan today, and it gave visitors access to all the facilities within.
According to the park management, the new price of entry has yet to be determined, while the venue will be limited to just 3,300 people daily. Officials also said that profitability will not be a major concern of the park, and the focus will be on preserving heritage and culture.
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