CHINA'S so-called "Dwarf Empire", also known as the "Kingdom of Little People", is as controversial as it sounds.
The fantasy theme park is home to over 150 people of short stature who perform daily for tourists that flock to the bizarre site in the Yunnan province.
The £11million project started in 2009 and is staffed only by people shorter than 4ft3in, most of which have dwarfism.
An hour’s drive east of the city of Kunming in southwest China, the long-time workers have created a tight-knit community inside the strange fairytale kingdom.
The large site is filled with castles, amphitheatres and an entire replica of The Shire from Lord of the Rings.
There are Dr. Seuss style houses with crooked windows and mushroom roofs and a restaurant inside an old passenger plane.
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For an entrance fee of £11, anyone can explore the site and watch the array of wacky shows, which range from a parody of Swan Lake to a medieval battle scene or a drag queen performance.
The tourists can then have their pictures taken with the entertainers and be invited into tiny model houses for tea.
It's all said to be ruled by an "emperor", who wears yellow and red robes and large sunglasses.
The "Dwarf Empire" is the birth child of Chinese real estate mogul Chen Mingjing, who came up with the idea after meeting two people with dwarfism begging on the train.
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“I really pitied their situation,” he told Time in 2018. “Their families despised them, cursed them, so they had to sleep on the street.
"I thought we should build a kingdom just for them.”
However, since the theme park first opened its doors, questions have been repeatedly raised over the ethics of it all.
Advocacy groups have long seen the "Dwarf Empire" as a disturbing spectacle of exploitation.
The US dwarfism support group Little People of America has likened the site to a "zoo" and complained it isolates the performers from the rest of society, reinforcing prejudice towards those with dwarfism.
China is home to roughly 8million people with dwarfism – a condition that the state has classed as a disability since 2007.
The workers are paid around £255 per month, roughly similar to a factory workers salary, and live mostly in shared rooms in a dilapidated concrete boarding house on site.
But the park has also reportedly been a place to find love and friendship.
One staff member, Ah Wei, who makes and sells handicrafts, met his wife inside the kingdom.
He told The World of Chinese: “Back in Henan, I would often get laughed at for my condition if I went out in public."
"After hearing about the Dwarf Kingdom in Kunming, I decided to make the move.
“I have enjoyed my time here since I feel like I fit in. I can be myself around similar people.”
Another resident, Xu Shengwei, also found love inside the park. He met his wife, Chen Meixin, in 2016 and they married a year later.
People come from all over China to live within the apparent safety of its walls and the park reportedly used to receive three to four applications per month before the pandemic.
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Despite visitor numbers slowing in recent years, the site's creator still has big plans for the site.
Chen envisions a site spread across 13,000 acres of countryside with rides, guest cabins, a 230ft tall performance hall and employs 1,000 workers with dwarfism.
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