The Beauty of Contrast by Yidan Xu

In this poetic piece, the writer explores the contrasts of the Kuanzhai Valley, Chengdu. You can see her gallery at the bottom of the page, where the images are paired to demonstrate the difference between night and day in the valley. 

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Yidan Xu

My home is located in a block just a 3-minute walk away from Kuanzhai Valley, in Chengdu. When friends or relatives visit from other parts of China, I take them to Kuanzhai Valley for a short trip. Here, the grey-green brick and stone tiles are a testament to hundreds of years of precipitation of Chengdu, and as one of the most famous attractions, it never fails to fascinate tourists who come from all over the planet.


Alas, once upon a time:

My mother asked me to buy a sack of sunflower seeds for her on the other side of the valley,

The actual distance was just a 5-minute walk;

However, I spent almost thirty minutes, squeezed in the crowds, like a sardine in a can.

By the way, when I arrived home, only half the sunflower seeds were left; well, I really didn’t mean for that to happen.

Watching an elderly grandfather sitting and smoking, the craftsman drawing sugar painting, booming Begonia flowers and dizzy crowds for the one thousandth time, I suddenly wondered:

“What if there was nobody in the valley?”

“What would it look like when empty?”

Thus one day, at 3:00 am:

My friend A borrowed a camera from her friend,

friend B borrowed a flashlight from the security guard,

and I took my toy rabbit to be our “model”.

The adventure started.

The whole process was amusing.

We thought there would be nobody at that time, nevertheless, the cleaners were starting cleaning the valley and the security guard stood upright in the front.

After five minutes of us wandering, the guard couldn’t help asking:

“Emmm, what are you doing here?”

Frankly speaking, at that moment I wasn’t sure what I was doing there at midnight with a tribe of mosquitos.


But of course, it’s all about satisfying my curiosity and exploring the contrast.

Contrast is fascinating.

Contrast is:


A serious businessman who keeps a poker face all the time, but smiles like a pink flower when hugging a baby;

a tattooed girl who smokes and drinks a lot, but welcomes you in her kitchen, treating you to a table full of delicious dishes;

a lazy worker who suddenly pushes his glasses up and starts to work absorbedly and meticulously.


This kind of contrast has such an impact, consequently there is a new term in China known as “the cuteness of contrast.”

But I would prefer the term “beauty of contrast.”

We all use our mundane, repetitive, and stereotypical experience to define the place, the people, and the world we’ve experienced.

And contrast can help us redefine all of these.

It is surprise that refreshes your eyes and creates enjoyment beyond expectations.

I haven’t seen anything more artistic and exciting than that.

Gallery of Contrasts

(click on an image to zoom)

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