The setting is “Splendid China”, a shuttered theme park in the South. Long before the Bird’s Nest, this leisure park was designed to introduce Americans to the delights of Chinese architecture. To that end, little replicas of buildings and monuments were scattered across the grounds.
The workmanship of China, made in the USA, is exquisite. The decorations on the tiny houses are best seen with a magnifying glass. And here too, the truly fine details of a building are often only noticed when the shell is cracked and ornamental refinements spill into the light. Now that they are abandoned, some of the structures are deteriorating as a real building might, with matchstick beams collapsing and sending bursts of tiny tiles to the dirt floor. It must all happen very quietly.
As the houses get engulfed by weeds, they become miniature archaeological sites, to some day be unearthed with tweezers and a microscope. Maybe someone will then cherish a centimeter-long shingle as the pinnacle of ancient theme park art. For now, as the walls continue to cave in, at least their enchantment is preserved.