[Video Essay] Disappearing city: The disappearance of distinctive culture

The Video Essay Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6nkc2Q4qX8&list=PL5PP0NHM6bT9DpggvjwrrlG26bJ50vEr0&index=1 

Title: Disappearing city: The disappearance of distinctive culture

Site: Alleyway (Hohhot, China)

“Culture heritage provides us an automatic sense of unity and belonging.”(2019)


Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, has a very strong ethnic integration character and geographical advantages by virtue of its political and geographical conditions. The province of Inner Mongolia is adjacent to Gansu Province on the left and Mongolia on the north. This situation and condition makes Inner Mongolia’s political center, Hohhot, have many residents of Mongolian, Hui and other ethnic minorities. At the same time, I believe that Inner Mongolia has a thriving Buddhist culture because it is one of the few autonomous regions in China with minority groups. Prior to the epidemic, tourism in Hohhot was increasing with the Chinese government’s economic policy support for minority regions. Travelers can experience different ethnic cultural features in Hohhot such as Mongolian, Hui and even Tibetan. Nevertheless, as a result of the city’s hyper-development and the epidemic, the unique cultural flavor belonging to Hohhot is fading, replaced by the transformation from a cultural street to a commercial street. At the same time, the blasting of some cultural buildings and the closing of some characteristic stores. However, the city and the people of the city still try to preserve the marks belonging to the ethnic integration: the restoration of Tibetan Buddhist and Mongolian temples, the preservation of the commercial part of the buildings in the temples, and the roofs of Hui Islamic churches, etc. In this essay, I will mainly analyze the cultural perspective of ‘Disappearing City’. In this short video, I will show the distinctive cultural buildings of some distinctive ethnic groups in Hohhot in the form of videos and pictures, so that you can experience the depression of the distinctive culture of these cities due to the development of the city and the epidemic.


After a year I finally returned to my hometown once again. When I set foot in the area again, it was very different from the bustling, lively look I remembered. What I saw was the closing of many stores and the constant change of some stores. Due to the epidemic, each new batch of stores that opened lasted less than two months before welcoming their new owners. At a time when the “nightlife” was just about to start, there were no more people in the alleyway. Walking down the old street, it was obvious that some old buildings had new scars, but no one had repaired them due to the epidemic. Many stores were tightly chained with rusty locks. Even temples or churches were closed, and people who wanted to go on pilgrimages were not allowed to do so, much less visit them. I began to think about what Hohhot, a third-tier city in China, could rely on to develop quickly and what could be developed as its unique culture in the face of the epidemic.

Before the epidemic, Hohhot attracted a large number of tourists. The unique grasslands, yurts, and Buddhist temples were all must-see destinations for tourists. For myself, I would love to go to different cities to experience different ethnic characteristics. But the excessive commercialization of scenic spots makes me feel overly modern. The preservation of traditional characteristics and culture is becoming more and more difficult to achieve. We gradually have to rely on media forms such as documentaries or films to preserve the original appearance of culture. But does it have to be this way? Nowadays, the Buddhist temples, churches or other special buildings shown in the video look more like a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to me. These buildings are gradually reduced to a mere house. The culture and heritage of the building is getting less and less. There is no shortage of commercial cities in China, and Hohhot has a unique ethnic advantage. If this continues, although the economic growth of Hohhot is stimulated, but the cultural landmarks belonging only to Hohhot are lost.

Producing the Video:

I was unable to enter the Islamic church due to my ethnicity, so I focused on the commercial part of the temple. The video starts with a monk and ends with the Hui area where the epidemic once occurred. At the same time the footage shows many images of ancient gates locked and some architectural features of the temple. I tried to find an image that I had seen before: a store with no customers, the owner sitting by the door with his head down and playing on his phone, the lights inside the house dim, the building old, and it was getting late outside. This image seemed to be a microcosm of the city under the epidemic. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up encountering it again, and was greeted only by a lock on the door. For the soundtrack of the video I chose a softer tempo, with certain ups and downs in the middle. In the darkness, we are still full of hope.


Reference List:

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1 thought on “[Video Essay] Disappearing city: The disappearance of distinctive culture

  1. Jen Lam says:

    You have understood disappearance in several ways. Referencing Abbas’ piece on disappearance would be helpful. For instance, you have mentioned that some of the vernacular buildings were retained but their uses have been changed completely. Moreover, your site should be an alleyway, meaning the back lanes. It seems that you have not touched upon the site in your video which leads to a general observation of the surroundings.


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