O.K., so there are no melting clocks or elephants on stilts, but we aren’t talking that kind of Dali.
The beautiful town of Dali, Yunnan Province, seemed designed for contemplation – a series of brooks, originating in the nearby Cang Shan mountains, meander through the town’s purpose-built, terraced creek beds, burbling over stones, arriving at ornamental ponds, and then flowing onward to the town’s centre.
There, you find a satisfying hybrid of symmetry and chance – four interconnecting square ponds flank the four corners of a large, central gateway, all of it anchoring a larger square of pathways and pavilions, everything equidistant and precise.
Between the carefully balanced features, large trees and water plants sprout haphazardly, like an organic tide on the cusp of rending the design back to rubble. This was nature wrapped around reason.