Beijing is full of surprises. Today we took the girls to the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, out near the Olympic stadium. We weren't expecting that much to be honest, but it was really impressive. Basically it's an outdoor museum which presents - through traditional homes, clothes and customs - China's 56 ethnic minorities, ranging from the larger groups like Manchu and Uyghur (both about 10m) to the tiny Hezhen, Gaoshan and Lhoba (each just a few thousand). And not forgetting the Han, who are presented like any other, despite their 1.2bn.
The park is huge, with around 200 buildings dotted around pleasantly contrived hills and lakes. There's an impressive Qiang village from western Sichuan, a covered bridge typical of the Dong people from southern China, a tastefully done Tibetan potala atop a hill, rice fields, a Naxi old town square in which a colourful ethnic fashion show took place, actual-size pagodas & temples, crafts-sellers, geese, you name it.
It was like we were on holiday, blitzing around China's lesser-known regions. Very good signage in Mandarin and English (though apparently it was once mistranslated as the Racist Park!). And so peaceful. Amazingly few visitors. We were the only westerners. Very glad we went.