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.