Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Slow Down

Amy Ma's picture

The lady in the photo slowly put down her cigarette, and looked at it. The lady in front of her was looking at her, probably waiting for her words. But she just sat there in silence. She didn’t speak a word until we left. Under the warm street lights, people were lingering slowly, slowly enough to make ten meters a long distance. So were we. We walked slowly with the crowd. Everything and everyone around us just slowed us down.


Chengdu is famous for its slow life pace. 256 B.C., Li Bing and his son built Dujiangyan, a hydraulic project which makes Chengdu a place without floods or droughts. When everything was very dependent on agriculture, this project greatly benefitted Chengdu, and made Chengdu a wealthy place. People never worried about their life in that period of time, and they spent more time seeking for a more comfortable lifestyle. There is an old saying: “Never go to Chengdu when you are young.” Because you will lose your ambitions, and will just indulge yourself in comforts at a young age. Today, there are people in the park who just sip tea for a whole afternoon. I asked my dad, “What is the meaning of sitting there and drinking tea for hours?” My dad said, “The meaning is that there is no meaning of it.”


It takes me time to understand. Waking up to the alarm clock, putting on clothes, brushing my teeth, grabbing a piece of bread, and rushing to school, that was my weekdays in Chengdu. But sometimes I do want to relax without doing anything, not even anything fun. In the last year of my senior high school when I had piles of homework, when I had 3 tests every day, when I slept for four hours a day, I usually spent several minutes walking at night, alone after school. I got off the bus one stop earlier, leaving the last distance for walking. I knew I had a lot of things to do, but I just found I have to squeeze some time for walking for nothing.


As Chengdu develops, its lifestyle becomes faster, and as I grow up, I get busier. But beside those rushing cars, you can still see an old man walks on the streets slowly singing Sichuan Opera, with a bird cage in his hand. A young man stands by Funan River, looking at those shutterbugs taking picture of Lang Bridge. A student walks slowly after she gets off a bus at night. People linger on the streets, in evening or on weekends. No matter how fast life gets, we always seek a time to be slow. This is Chengdu.


Cities are similar in a way. They have different buildings for similar uses. They have different people doing similar jobs. They have different transportation routes but lead to the similar places: places for work, places for study, and places for fun etc.

But what makes Chengdu Chengdu? Not Beijing or Shanghai, but Chengdu?

“The soul of a city is its people” Zukin said.

The people make a city different.

“Take your time. Don’t press the close button in the elevator as soon as you get in just to save one second. Just let it close by itself. Just don’t put yourself in a hurry. You are not that hurry.” Grandpa told me.

Buildings rise and fall. People come and go. The soul of the city remains on its people, and it passes generation by generation.