Join me on a photo tour of Epcot's China!
The trees and buildings of Epcot's China pavilion blend in with the blue Central Florida sky. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Although China is the most populated part of the world, it is also the most mysterious for many Westerners. Steeped in tradition, yet striving for a place among the most modern of nations, China is filled with beauty, grace, and dignity in a way that few places on Earth are. The China pavilion at Epcot is an attempt to capture that atmosphere and share it with Walt Disney World's guests. The architecture, gardens, shops, and restaurants set the stage while a Circlevision presentation of The Wonders of China, provides the finer details.
This serpentine rock stands on the lagoon side of World Showcase promenade, and foreshadows the plethora of dragon images to be seen in the pavilion itself. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Unfortunately, I am one of those Westerners who has very little knowledge or understanding of China or its Asian neighbors. What appears to me, an ignorant visitor to the pavilion, to simply be ornamental details may, in fact, mean much more to someone familiar with the culture of China. Forgive my lack of background knowledge as we take our tour... but beware that I will take pains to point out many of the intricacies that fascinated me as I walked around this pavilion with digital camera in hand.
The entry gateway to the China pavilion is a work of art in its incredible colors and details. Photo by Brian Bennett.
In addition to the "normal" sights and sounds of the pavilion, there is a display that you can see right now on the design of the brand new Hong Kong Disneyland. Many of the new resort's cast members were trained here at Walt Disney World in the months leading up to the new Disneyland's opening. I'll show some of that display a bit later in the photo tour.
The opening of the newest Disney resort in Hong Kong is celebrated in the China pavilion. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Glancing to the left of the entry gate, the building that houses the pavilion's main restaurant, the Nine Dragons, is resplendent with a gorgeous golden roof and bright red pillars and walls.
The Nine Dragons is nestled against Norway's Akershus castle. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The detail is stunning when you look up and really look at the roofline of this building. Note the animal carvings along the right-hand side of the lower roof and the lovely curve of edges as the two sides of the upper roof meet at the corner.
The craftsmanship and design that went into this pavlion are frequently seen in the building ornamentation and details. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Walking back and through the gateway, the Temple of Heaven soars on the right side of the pavilion while small ponds on either side provide a sense of quiet and retreat.
Beautiful blues and reds make up the color scheme, but you have to get closer to see the details of the Temple of Heaven. Photo by Brian Bennett.
To the right, a tranquil pond soothes the spirit of passersby. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The natural look of the pond on the left makes for a nice foreground for the exhibit building behind. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Pedestrian traffic parts to the left and right as it approaches the entrance to the Temple of Heaven to go around this slab of stone depicting one of many, many dragon images that you can see in the pavilion.
Beautifully carved dragons are the highlight of this carved stone slab. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Taking a quick step to the right, here is a view of the pavilion including the dragon carving right there toward the bottom left in the photograph. The bright white marble steps and walls around the temple contrast strongly with the deep gold of the building roofs and the dark green of the trees around the pond.
The pavilion viewed from the temple walls. Photo by Brian Bennett.
A quick turn of the head reveals another gorgeous detail... the carved dragons and geometric designs in the wall post. Other posts are carved with figures of birds and other creatures.
A close-up view of the marble wall carvings shows another depiction of a dragon. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Looking back even further reveals the quiet pond, the white marble causeway leading to the temple, and the building housing the Nine Dragons restaurant beyond.
A view of the pond and causeway from the temple. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Turning your attention back on the temple (obviously, I spent a great deal of time looking around and up as I toured the pavilion), the intricate details of the colors, the carvings, and the layered repetitious oriental gingerbread (I'm sure better terminology exists, but my ignorance is obvious here again) is just incredible. Frankly, it's so detailed that the casual observerthe tourist walking into the building to see the Circlevision film insideis very likely to miss it altogether. It looks Oriental, thus it makes us feel like we're in China. That's good enough for most folks. But when I walked around this pavilion with a camera around my neck just to take photographs of what's there, I was astounded to really see the level of detail. Even with modern tools available to them, craftsman must have labored for hours and hours and hours to produce these buildings. They are truly gorgeous.
An overview of the temple roof shows the depth of detail that went into its' design and construction. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Painted dragons and birds decorate the lowest level of panels on the temple. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Different designs, just as beautiful, surround the middle level of panels. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Not surprisingly, the upper level of panels is decorated with depictions of dragons as well. Photo by Brian Bennett.
From this same vantage point, there is a beautiful view of the entry gateway. The geometric patterns painted on the panels and the intricately carved Oriental gargoyles (again, I'm sure there's a better term with which I'm not familiar) are amazing works of art.
At this point I made one last turn, this time to head into the temple itself, and walked smack into more examples of the artisan's efforts that I've been enjoying so much on this visit.
The inside of the temple tower morphs into a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns. Photo by Brian Bennett.
More dragons appear on the golden centerpiece of the ceiling. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Blue-painted beams, bright red columns, and deep green ceiling panels criss-cross in an intricate tangle. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Sunlight pierces the windows at the lower levels of the dome and splashes off the floor as colors and shapes soar above the temple entrance. Photo by Brian Bennett.
In stark contrast to the vibrant color and design that greets you as you enter the pavilion and especially the temple entrance, the room set aside as a waiting room for the Circlevision film is dark, drab, and lacking in detail. Perhaps it was intentionally designed to act as a visual palate cleanser. After feasting on the artistic and architectural eye-candy throughout the pavilion, it's good to sit and clear out the mind's eye before seeing the real thing, China in both its natural and man-made glory, on screen. (In my opinion, the film presentations at Epcot's World Showcase are not-to-be-missed. Norway has a short film that guests are invited to watch after riding Maelstrom. France has a a partial Circlevision film, presented on five screens. Canada and China both present a full Circlevision film during which the audience stands.) Unfortunately, it's not possible to show the Circlevision presentation here, so you'll have to see it yourself when next you visit Epcot.
The Circlevision theater waiting area is dark and drab when compared to the rest of the pavilion. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Off to one side of the waiting area is an entrance to a display room. If you have time, while waiting for the Circlevision presentation, you might want to see what's here. Currently, a display about the recently-opened Hong Kong Disneyland can be viewed. I'll share a little bit of the display since it's here.
A Victorian-styled Disneyland Hotel and an Art Deco Hollywood Hotel provide Hong Kong Disneyland guests with accomodations. Photo by Brian Bennett.
A clash between water and fire tiki gods gives Hong Kong Disneyland's version of the venerable Jungle Cruise a little spice. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Tarzan's Treehouse also acts as an entrance to a tropical island playground since there will be no Tom Sawyer's Island at the new park. Photo by Brian Bennett.
A character meet-and-greet area, called "Fantasia Gardens" is the centerpiece of the park's Fantasyland. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Space Mountain and the Orbitron dominate the Tomorrowland Sky at Hong Kong Disneyland. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Next time, we'll continue our tour of the China pavilion as we stroll the shops and restaurants of the pavilion.
(Send an email to Brian Bennett)
One of the original editors at MousePlanet, Brian Bennett has written an encyclopedia's worth of online resources on Walt Disney World. Enduring freezing winters in Michigan with thoughts of trips to Orlando and staying at Disney Vacation Club resorts, Brian had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move to Orlando with his wife and sons.