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“Progress” wipes out Forbidden Gardens; last days to see unique attraction

The Grand Parkway, State Highway 99, is on a collision course with one of America’s wackiest attractions, and wackiness is about to get run over.

Located off I-10 in Katy, The Forbidden Gardens, the self-described Chinese history and cultural museum, will officially close on Feb. 21 to make way for the Grand Parkway’s expansion. But this is the last weekend to see it intact.

Listed by Time Magazine as one of the 50 top U.S roadside attractions and as one of America’s wackiest attractions by, the Forbidden Gardens was built by Hong Kong businessman Ira Poon to “help promote knowledge of ancient Chinese history and culture,” according to the museum’s literature.

Forbidden Gardens consists of nine exhibits designed to educate visitors on Chinese history, including a miniature, but expansive, replica of the Forbidden City, a weapons room, and a 20-minute movie about the various exhibits.

Perhaps most impressive is the Terra Cotta Army, the 6,000 one-third sized replicas of the famous Terra Cotta Army of First Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di. Though this Texas version of the warriors might be slightly smaller in stature, standing in pits in the middle of a Katy field, their existence is rather wondrous. A brightly colored statue of the emperor is situated slightly above them, perhaps ready to command his army forward against the advancing Grand Parkway.

With the closing imminent, crowds having been making pilgrimages to get a last, and sometimes first, look. Forbidden Gardens’ office manager and web designer, Kristina Cortez, reports that 800 visitors came through the museum last Saturday and while the rest of area was watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, 1,000 visitors were watching the frozen warriors.

Sunday will be the final day to see the entire museum. From Feb. 14 through 17, Forbidden Gardens will be open, but the process of breaking down and removing the exhibits will have begun. The museum is in talks to sell the exhibits intact; however, some of the damaged or broken terra cotta warriors will be sold to the general public, along with everything else in the museum, excluding the major exhibits.

If any Houstonian is in need of some forbidden rocks, plants, refrigerators, or a damaged replica of a 2200 year old terra cotta warrior, the big sale runs February 19-21 at Forbidden Gardens.

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