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Ordos: The Land Of Many Palaces, A Talk With Filmmakers Adam Smith And Song Ting

Two filmmakers are out in Ordos Kangbashi — a mythical new city in the middle of a desert in Inner Mongolia — trying to understand the rise of the New China. Listen to the podcast: [powerpress]

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Ordos Kangbashi is a mythical sort of place. It is a new city out in the middle of a desert in Inner Mongolia that was built up from scratch in an area that has never really known urbanization before. There is literally nothing around it, and up until a handful of years ago there was nothing here but windswept shrub lands. This land has traditionally been known as a poor backwater of China full of impoverished peasants and sheepherders.

Then around a decade ago, boondocks became boom town. The face of this stretch of the Ordos Desert was instantly transformed as massive deposits of coal and rare earth were discovered. This provided the impetus to construct an entirely new, state of the art, uber-modern city to monumentalize this newfound wealth. Simply put, the name Ordos is Mongolian for “The Land of Many Palaces,” and its Kangbashi new district is meant to make this nomenclature a reality.

If nothing else, putting up a brand new city in the middle of a desert can be called bizarre, and it is this inability to understand this place that has perhaps lead to many visitors to simplify their observations. Many, including correspondents from the Al Jeezera, Time Magazine, Canada’s CCTV, visited Kangbashi and called it a ghost city. Some even went as far as to summarize the project as a nefarious plot to boost GDP, while others have mocked it as a colossal example of China’s housing bubble which they predict is about to burst. Whatever is the case, what we are witnessing in China is a model for urban development that is very unique unto itself and it is therefore difficult to truly understand and very easy to misinterpret.

Understanding that there is far more to the story in Ordos, filmmakers Adam Smith and Song Ting have decided to investigate the rise of this new city for themselves in a feature length documentary called The Land of Many Palaces. Joining us from Beijing, Adam and Ting are our guests for Vagabond Journey podcast #3:


Adam Smith and Song Ting

Adam Smith and Song Ting

More about Adam, Ting, and their film can be found on their Facebook Page, their Kickstarter proposal, and on Twitter.

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Filed under: China, China’s Ghost Cities, Urbanization, Vagabond Radio

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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