There’s a quote I like about location and perception. I’ve heard a lot of variations of it, but it goes roughly like this: “In Europe they think a hundred miles is a long distance. In America, they think a hundred years is a long time.”
Back in 2013, Dannie and I experienced a similar sensation when we visited China for a month. China is very big and very old, so neither a hundred miles nor a hundred years is anything to bat an eye at. I remember getting a real sense of time when we stayed in the city of Chengdu (Dannie wanted to visit their famous panda zoo). We stayed in an apartment building right in the modern downtown of the city of over 4 million people. But only a block or two away was a famous temple (and night market), surrounded by courtyards. We strolled through it with our cameras and apart from a few other tourists, we felt like we had stepped back in time.
In countries like China where modernization happened very rapidly, there’s a surreal mix of old and new, near and far. On one noisy Chengdu street corner people chat on their cell phones and it feels almost like New York City, but right nearby a Buddhist monk strolls serenely through a garden. They say that the future is now, but I guess the past is now too.
View from our hotel in ChengDu