Like a dull set of teeth poised to take a bite out of the heavens, the serrated skyline rears up from the ground. Ships, green banks, muddy water. Stores and office blocks on streets like asphalt canyons, teeming with people. An aspiring middle-class first goes to work then goes shopping. There’s no sign of stress, only resigned diligence – as if they’ve already seen it all, as if nothing more could ever surprise them. Dense swaths of fog roll down the surrounding mountains, enveloping the city. They keep the locals cool and seem to lend a certain spiritual aura to the overriding obsession with order. Not that we can feel a heartbeat, but there is a rhythm: tick tock, tick tock, like an old clock.

Chongqing, a megacity in the southwest of China, is home to some 15 million people, while double that number live in its greater metropolitan region, an area the size of Austria and part of the same municipality.
“Dual celebration” is the literal meaning of Chongqing. It was named so by Zhao Dun, Prince of Guangzong, after he was appointed and then made Emperor of the Song Dynasty in the same year, 1189. The name is both a legacy and an oracle: it stands for social advancement, prosperity, and power, universal grounds for diverse celebrations.

The city epitomizes the development and organization of an ancient civilization. Time flies here, but not straight by people; instead, it’s regarded as a constant cycle that confronts them with the same opportunities, dangers, and risks, over and over again.
The past sets the context: it’s a backdrop inevitably interwoven with the present and the future. Mandarin, the primary Chinese language, likewise knows no tenses: temporal shifts are expressed by adding on particles or by using adverbs of time.
Verbs are always in the infinitive form. Everything we do was, is, and will be forever. Bone finds in the region attest to human settlement here as long as 25,000 years ago.

We dream our way into the past, propelled by images of temples adorned with dragons, of vases sporting long-bearded warriors and emperors. Tigers and dragonflies, the Great Wall and Cultural Revolution, socialism and Internet censorship, the one-child policy and TikTok: But what do we see when we wake up? Trees in glass cabinets, tattooed fish, edible snakes, megastructures, cages, aquariums, body parts of animals on the menu, meat hooks, and power pylons; abstract consumerism and functionalism; cigarettes, blood, and, time after time, relentless fog.