Chinese cities are places of extremes. Not only their sheer size and population, but also their contrasts are extreme. You walk between the skyscrapers and you immediately feel dwarfed and insignificant. Chengdu is a place that, in my opinion captures this contrast in a very real and immediate way.
I know there are skyscrapers in the US and Europe as well, but in Chengdu the difference between old and new town are much more noticeable and immediate. Walk around a corner just a few minutes from the above image and you'll end up here:
It is indeed a different world at a different speed. Maybe people need these retreats in a city, that runs at an incredible speed all the time. People are on edge virtually all the time, having the opportunity to retreat to these urban getaways at any time certainly seems kind of necessary. Coming from a small town it was always relieving to hang out in Chengdu's old town for a while.
Looks like a gateway to the past...