I was sitting in Mr Li’s cafe in Dali, wondering what I was going to do with my day, when I noticed a list of local festivals. As it so happened, one of them was on that very day – the “Butterfly Festival” which was held at the “Butterfly Spring”. Not particularly exciting-sounding, but at least worth a look, so I finished my tea and took a minibus to the place.
It was on the edge of a small village and from the outside looked something like this:
Just beyond this I found a market, deserted by everyone except a few shopkeepers. It didn’t look particularly festive.
At the back of the market there was a path which led to the entrance of a themepark. Nobody was there, nobody asked me for a ticket, yet everything was completely pristine.
After briefly wondering if I was supposed to be there, in the traditional English style, I wandered up the path and encountered my first human, a Bai woman selling souvenirs. It was quite a nice place, but there was certainly no sign of any visitors, let alone an annual festival.
Halfway up the hill there was the butterfly farm. It was much like one I visited in England when I was fairly young. Lots of pupae and fully grown butterflies flying around.
The only difference I spotted at this stage was the collection of unusual butterflies dead in cases and on sale. This used to be a fairly normal hobby but for some reason it’s become unfashionable in “the west” – I suppose it’s something to do with an understandable distaste at the killing of creatures for the sole purpose of collection. Tellingly there were signs instructing visitors not to take photos of the sale items.
This is all pretty standard so far, I know.
After the generally dull Butterfly enclosure I took another walk up to a lake.
As there was nothing left to do and nobody around I thought I might as well take a look at the building on the other side. Inside it there was some kind of unmanned exhibition. Again there were signs telling me not to take photos, but this time I felt the risk was worth it. I had stumbled on a butterfly death art centre. Somebody, somewhere, thought this was a great idea.
These are all real dead butterflies.
There were several additional rooms of this with something like a hundred thousand dead butterlies used as art and decoration. The whole place was one big butterfly death art factory.
I’m really not sure what to make of this.
After realising there wasn’t anything else to do I wandered down the hill again to find my way out. I saw only two or three bored members of staff, none of whom tried to speak to me.
Finding the gate closed and locked I searched for another exit and found a set of turnstiles with a ticket booth. If I’d walked in the correct way I’d have had to pay 60RMB (4 quid) for the experience. A lucky break.