Jiangsu & Anhui Travel Guide
main hall of the Fuzi Miao
Of all China’s great cities, Nanjing or Nanking, as it was once known, is the most attractive. The capital of Jiangsu province, it is picturesquely set on the banks of the Yangzi, close to the magnificent Purple Mountain. This city of lakes is still enclosed within its grand city wall, and its streets are shaded by plane trees. Meaning “southern capital,” it was the capital of several regional kingdoms up to AD 220. Later, it was China’s capital under the early Ming. It was also the capital of the 19th-century Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and the first Chinese Republic under Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Today, Nanjing is a fast developing city, with good restaurants and a lively nightlife.
Nanjing City Center
Nanjing city center
- Bailuzhou Park (3)
- Chaotian Gong (5)
- Fuzi Miao (4)
- Drum & Bell Towers (11)
- Meiyuan Xincun (7)
- Memorial to the Nanjing Massacre (14)
- Ming Palace Ruins (8)
- Mochou Lake (13)
- Nanjing Yangzi River Bridge (12)
- Provincial Museum (9)
- Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum (2)
- Tianchao Gong & Xu Yuan (6)
- Xuanwu Lake (10)
- Zhonghua Gate (1)
Although the medieval city walls give the impression that Nanjing is a small city, it is in fact fairly spread out. A lot of ground can be covered on foot, but visitors will also need to use the city’s local transport, either the comprehensive bus service or taxis, which are plentiful and reasonably priced.
Built under the orders of the first Ming emperor, Hongwu, from 1368–86, the walls surrounding the capital were the most extensive in the world at the time. The 40-ft (12-m) high walls snaked 20 miles (33 km) around the city’s natural contours. Given that the city was elsewhere protected by river and mountain, Zhonghua Gate was a key element in Nanjing’s southern defences. Its walls were cemented by a super-strong mortar made with glutinous rice. Certainly the Emperor’s show of defense was effective – no enemy attempted to breach the walls via Zhonghua Gate. Today the gate’s impressive remains are open to visitors and an interesting museum has been built into the battlements.
Reconstruction of Zhonghua Gate
The main gate tower sat adjacent to the top of the wall, with the rest of the citadel protruding into the city. Today, only the brick walls remain – none of the gatehouses has survived.
Numerous bricks are stamped with the name of the kiln where they were fired and even the name of the brickmaker himself, together with the date of manufacture.
Statue of soldier
Statues wearing replica Ming-era uniforms are scattered strategically about the battlements.
The wide ramps, which run up each side of the gate to the top of the city wall, allowed soldiers and horses quick access to the ramparts.
Four arched tunnels, each as long as 174 feet (53 m), run through the battlements. Each gate had massive double doors and a portcullis.
Behind the main gate are three courtyards or citadels. During an attack, enemy forces that breached the main gate could be trapped in these courtyards. The cavities in the walls concealed soldiers waiting in ambush.
Nanjing’s City Walls
Originally 20 miles (33 km) long, much of the wall, about 75 percent, remains. The most impressive sections are near the refurbished Xuanwu Gate in the north and the long strip in the east. Parts, but not all, of the existing wall can be walked along.
- Xuanwu Gate 1
- Taiping Gate 2
- Zhongshan Gate 3
- Zhonghua Gate 4
Nanjing's City Walls
Heavenly Kingdom History Museum
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum
- 128 Zhanyuan Rd.
- 025 5220 1849
This museum commemorates the anti-dynastic Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Rebellion of 1851–64 (see Wuzhou). The building was used by one of the rebellion’s leaders, or Heavenly Princes, while one section – the Zhan or Enthusiasm Garden – originally belonged to the first Ming emperor, Hongwu. Today, the halls are filled with memorabilia and photographs relating to the rebellion, which overran large parts of China. After the rebels claimed Nanjing as their base, they came very close to toppling the Qing dynasty in Beijing, but were eventually defeated by the Qing army under Western leadership in 1864. On display are weapons and uniforms, samples of Taiping currency, and documents explaining the Heavenly ideology, which aimed to change China’s feudalistic society into one based on equality. Their aims included the modernization of the education system that was still based on Confucian classics, the redistribution of land, and equality of the sexes.
The White Egret Park was once the property of the Ming general Xu Da, and subsequently became the Chinese quarter during the centuries of Manchu rule. The pavilions were all destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion but the park was restored in 1951, and the area still abounds in traditional houses.
- Gongyuan Rd.
- 025 8662 8639
- 8am–9pm daily
The origins of Fuzi Miao (Temple of Confucius) go back to AD 1034, while the current buildings date to the late 19th century, with recent additions. The temple was the seat of Confucian study for more than 1,500 years. Its halls feature a small exhibition of folk arts. The surrounding streets are flanked by houses with long upturned eaves and whitewashed walls – many of which are being restored in typical southern style. Nearby, the attractive canal bank has plenty of boats that ply the short distance to Zhonghua Gate.
The substantial Chaotian Gong (Heaven Palace) was once a place of ancestor worship, a seat of learning, and a Confucian temple. Its mid-19th century buildings such as halls, towers, and walkways, stand on an ancient temple site dating to AD 390. It now houses the Municipal Museum, displaying Shang bronzes and fragments of the legendary porcelain pagoda, destroyed in the Taiping Rebellion. The pagoda was built in the 15th century by the Ming Yongle emperor to honor his mother, and was covered in glazed white bricks. There are daily shows of Ming-dynasty Court Rites in the palace square.
Nearby along Tangzi Jie, house No. 74 has colorful paintings dating to the Taiping occupation that were discovered in 1952. The house was occupied by a follower of the Taiping Eastern Prince, Yang Xiuqing. The paintings – of animals and birds – are more interesting for their historical associations than for their deft execution.
Tianchao Gong & Xu Yuan
The Tianchao Gong (Heavenly Kingdom Palace), together with the surrounding classical Xu Yuan Garden (Balmy Garden), were originally built by a Ming prince. Under the Qing dynasty, it became the seat of provincial government until 1853, when it was seized by the leader of the Taiping Rebellion, Hong Xiuquan, as his headquarters. Finally, after the overthrow of the Qing empire, the palace housed the Republican Government, from where both Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek ruled China. Inside, there is an exhibition devoted to the Taiping Rebellion and to Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The surrounding Xu Yuan Garden is a popular weekend spot with the locals.
- 9am–4:30pm daily
The former Chinese Communist Party office was headed in 1946–47 by Zhou Enlai (see Nanchang), who held negotiations with the Kuomintang after the Japanese surrender. The newly restored building houses a museum commemorating these events.
the palace, Ming Palace Ruins
Ming Palace Ruins
- Zhongshan Donglu
The old Ming Palace (Ming Gugong) was built in the 14th century for the first Ming emperor, Hongwu, who made Nanjing his capital. Within a century of its construction, this splendid palace was severely damaged by two fires. Later, the Manchus and then the Taiping soldiers completed its destruction. All that remains are ten marble bridges, the old Wu Men or Meridian Gate, and a large number of pillar bases worth examining for their finely sculptured details. The pillars also give an idea of the layout of the palace buildings. Along its main axis, the palace would have had three major courtyards enclosed by enormous halls raised on platforms. These were flanked on either side by altars and temples. Beijing’s Forbidden City is a larger version of this palace complex. The grounds have plenty of trees, which offer shade in the summer months.
- 4 Chaotiangong Rd.
- 025 8446 5317
- 8am–4:30pm daily
The Provincial Museum, founded in 1933, is one of China’s better museums and definitely worth a visit. Its highlights include some wonderful ornate sedan chairs, bronzes from the Zhou dynasty, and model trading ships. The collection of jade and lacquerware includes a jade burial suit consisting of rectangles of jade sewn together with silver thread, dating from the Eastern Han dynasty. Also on display are bricks from the city wall, pictures of the old city, and relics from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Rebellion. Many of the exhibits are captioned in English, which makes the museum even more interesting.
in his mausoleum
Overlooking the city, Zijin Shan, or the Purple Mountain, is said to take its name from the color of the rocks. It is a picturesque area of gentle hills shaded by woodland and bamboo groves, dotted with villas. It also contains several of the most important points of interest in Nanjing such as the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Ming Xiao Ling, and the Linggu Temple complex. Seeing everything will take a whole day and, although there are food stalls around, visitors are advised to take along a picnic. The energetic can make the long climb to the summit for splendid views over the city; alternatively you can take a cable car from outside the eastern wall.
- Jiangsu Province, 2 miles (3 km) E of Nanjing
- from the train station. There is a shuttle service in the park
- Purple Mountain
- Apr–Nov: 6:30am–6:30pm daily; Dec–Mar: 7am–6pm daily
- Ming Xiao Ling Museum
- 9am–5pm daily
- Ming Xiao Ling
- Linggu Temple & Beamless Hall
- Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat Sen
Purple Mountain Observatory
Alongside more modern equipment, the observatory houses a display of bronze instruments that date back to the 15th century. However, similar pieces were used by the Chinese as long as 3,000 years ago.
Ming Xiao Ling
This tomb was completed in 1405 for the first Ming emperor, Hongwu, and his wife. Although much of it was destroyed in the Taiping Rebellion, enough remains to give a sense of the grandeur of the original.
Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen
Despite the use of blue tiles, instead of the emperor’s yellow ones, this grand mausoleum has imperial resonances. Completed in 1929, the blue and white colors represent the Nationalist Party.
Built in 1929, this 199-ft (61-m) high pagoda was designed by an American, Henry Murphy, at the behest of Chiang Kai-shek, in memory of the soldiers killed in the 1911 revolution (see The decline of the empire).
at the foot of the Purple Mountain
Exploring the Purple Mountain
Also known as Zhongshan Mountain, after Sun Yat-sen’s Mandarin name, the Purple Mountain (Zijin Shan) is best explored by starting from the easternmost site at the Linggu Temple and slowly working your way west back to the city. To fully explore the area requires a long day, but if time is scarce, half a day will do for visiting Sun Yat Sen’s Mausoleum, the most popular site on the mountain, and one other. However, it is also pleasant just to get away from everybody else and wander the network of shady woodland paths that crisscross the hillside, and to visit the many smaller visitor attractions.
Linggu Temple, Beamless Hall, and Pagoda
The Linggu Temple was originally sited where the Ming emperor Hongwu wanted to build his tomb (Ming Xiao Ling), and so he had it moved to this site. The only original building that remains is the Beamless Hall. Built in 1381, it is a brick vaulted edifice constructed without any wooden beams. This was supposed to be the solution to a timber shortage, but, with few exceptions, it failed to be adopted. A small, restored Buddhist temple reputedly houses the remains of the Tang dynasty monk Xuanzang who traveled to India to get Buddhist scriptures (see The Spread of Buddhism). The nearby Linggu Pagoda is inscribed in the handwriting of Chiang Kai-shek saying “repaying the country with extreme loyalty.” The building is meant to combine the future and the past in that it is an old style of building – a pagoda – but built with modern materials – reinforced concrete. From the top, there is a great view of the thick green leafy carpet that cloaks the mountain.
Sun Yat-sen’s museum
Slightly off the tourist trail, this museum is inside a beautiful building that once held a Buddhist library. The collection of paintings, black and white photos and artifacts chronicles in detail the life of the “father of the people.” The top two floors have captions in English. The Buddhist library of sutras is now housed in a separate building out the back.
Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum (Zhongshan Ling)
The revolutionary leader died in 1925 and a competition was held to design his tomb. The winner was Y.C. Lu, a graduate of Cornell University School of Architecture. The tomb is approached up a typically long marble stairway of 392 steps and comprises a square hall with a lifesize marble statue of the man leading to a round, domed building that contains his sarcophagus inset in the floor. There are other memorials in the area such as the Music Stage, an auditorium popular with picnicking visitors and the Guanghua Pavilion.
the first Ming emperor, Hongwu
Xiao Ling Tomb
Although much of it is derelict, the site is mainly of interest as the first of the Ming Tombs. The sacred way, an avenue of stone statues of pairs of animals and officials, some sitting, some standing on duty is also impressive. Unusually it does not run south to north but winds its way up the hillside. South of the tomb lies the scenic area of Plum Blossom Hill, especially pretty in spring when the trees bloom pink. To the west lie the Botanical Gardens, a huge area with colourful planting, lawns, hills, and lakes. Nearby lies the Tomb of Liao Zhongkai and his wife He Xiangning, prominent Nationalists who followed Sun Yat-sen.
Built in the 1930s, the observatory is slightly run down these days. The main point of interest for the casual visitor is the small collection of copies of bronze Ming and Qing astronomical instruments.
There are plenty of interesting sites around Nanjing that are worth seeing along with the Purple Mountain. All can easily be reached by taxi or in the case of Qixia Si, by bus.
Memorial to the Nanjing Massacre
A short distance west of Mochou Park, this site recalls the Japanese atrocities, known as the Nanjing Massacre, that took place during the city’s occupation in World War II. In the garden, shards of bone and piles of skulls are grim mementoes. Amid a photographic chronicle of the events, one room focuses on the post-war reconciliation between the two nations.
- 215 Yuhua Rd.
- 025 5241 1523
- 8:30am–5:30pm daily
According to legend, Yuhuatai, south of Zhonghua Gate, is where a 5th-century monk gave a sermon that was so moving that flowers rained down from the sky. Chinese visitors still collect the colored pebbles that are found here. Sadly, the park became an execution ground during the Chinese Revolution (1927–49), and thousands lost their lives here. The Martyrs’ Memorial consists of nine gigantic, 98-ft (30-m) high figures in typical Soviet realist style. Behind it is a pagoda, from where there are good views across the city.
King of Borneo’s Tomb
- Off Ning Dan Gong Rd. Over 1 mile (2 km) NW of Yuhuatai
Situated close to Yuhuatai, the King of Borneo’s Tomb was discovered as recently as 1958. The rulers of Borneo had been sending tribute to China since AD 977. In the mid-14th century, the first Ming emperor, Hongwu, greatly expanded the existing tribute system, whereby foreign nations paid “tribute” to China in the form of gifts and precious goods. He sent envoys to all of China’s tributary states including Borneo, to ensure that this economic exchange continued. The King of Borneo arrived in Nanjing in 1408, but died during his stay. His tomb is marked with a tortoise stele, and, similar to other tombs of the period, a sacred pathway with statues on either side. The site is not clearly signposted, so it is advisable to have the tomb’s name written in Chinese in order to ask for directions.
carvingsof the Buddha’s life, Qixia Si
Qixia Si & Thousand Buddha Cliffs
- Qixia Shan. 9 miles (15 km) NE of Nanjing
- bus from opposite the railway station, 1 hr
- 025 8576 8152
- 7am–5:30pm daily
One of the largest Buddhist seminaries in the country, Qixia Si was originally founded in AD 483, but the current building dates from 1908, at the end of the Qing dynasty. It consists of two principal temple halls; one has walls that are extensively covered with flying apsarases (celestial maidens), while the other houses a statue of an upright Vairocana Buddha, known as the Cosmic Buddha who is the embodiment of Truth and Knowledge. To the east stands an octagonal stone pagoda built in AD 601, which bears carvings of scenes from the life of the Buddha.
Behind the halls are the Thousand Buddha Cliffs. These are in fact just over 500 Buddha statues carved into the cliff face, but “thousand” is often used in China to denote “many.” The earliest statues date to the 5th century Qi dynasty, while most were carved during the Song and Tang dynasties. Some statues were badly defaced during the bloody Taiping Rebellion and again during the Cultural Revolution, but enough remain to make the visit worthwhile. Visitors can spend a few enjoyable hours walking in the woods behind the cliffs.
In the northeast corner of the city an especially fine stretch of the Ming city walls skirts the western shore of the enormous Xuanwu Lake, situated in Xuanwu Park. At well over 1 mile (2.5 km) long, the lake was an important water source for the city, as well as a popular imperial resort for many centuries. During the Song dynasty, it was also used for naval exercises. The park was opened to the public after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911.
Xuanwu Lake has five small islands named after the five continents, which are linked by bridges and causeways. They offer a variety of entertainment options with teahouses, restaurants, pavilions, boats of various types, swimming areas, an open-air theater, and even a small zoo. The most scenic is Yingzhou Island, delightfully laid out with lily pads, trees, and flowers. Although the park can get crowded, especially on weekends, it is a charming place to relax. The most convenient entrance is through the triple-arched Xuanwu Gate in the old city wall on Zhongyang Road, tickets are available from the booth on Jiwusi Road.
Drum & Bell Towers
The much-restored Drum Tower dates back over 600 years to 1382, and is fronted by a traditional gateway. It was built to house several drums that were beaten through the night to mark the change of the watch, and occasionally to sound alarms. Today, only one large drum remains. The tower also houses a collection of amateur paintings, and a part of it has been converted into a teahouse. A short distance to the northeast is the Bell Tower (Dazhong Ting), constructed during the Ming dynasty and rebuilt in 1889. The huge bronze bell, cast in 1388, is one of the largest in China.
The area surrounding the towers was the administrative center of the old city. It is now a busy place, full of offices and heavy traffic.
Nanjing Yangzi River Bridge
This impressive piece of engineering, completed in 1968, is one of the great achievements of the Chinese Communists, who took over the project after the Russians marched out in 1960. According to the official Chinese version, the bridge was built from scratch, as the Russians took the original plans with them when they left. The double-decker bridge, designed for road traffic as well as trains, is almost a mile (1.5 km) long, and is one of the longest in China. Before it was built, ferries used to carry entire trains across the river, one carriage at a time. An elevator takes visitors to the top of one of the towers, from where there are excellent views across the river. Also worth noting are the Soviet-style sculptures that decorate the bridge. The best approach to the bridge is through the adjacent Daqiao Gongyuan (Bridge Park).
maiden Mochou, Mochou Lake Park
Just outside the city wall in western Nanjing, Mochou Lake (Mochou Hu) is named after the legendary heroine, Mochou. Her name, meaning “Without Sorrow”, was bestowed because her singing was so sweet that it banished all sorrow. Surrounding the lake, Mochou Lake Park is especially pretty when the lotus flowers on the water are in full bloom. An open-air stage and a teahouse lie along the water’s edge. The Square Pavilion contains a statue of Mochou in a small pond, while the Winning Chess Pavilion next door was where the first Ming emperor Hongwu, played an important game of chess with his general.
The Nanjing Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking as it is also known, is still an object of friction between the Chinese and the Japanese. In 1937, when the invading Japanese army succeeded in capturing Nanjing, a large number of civilians stayed behind instead of fleeing, following an appeal made by the Chinese government. While the government fled, the occupying army proceeded to carry out a brutal campaign of murder, pillage, and rape on the civilian population. It is thought that up to 400,000 people were killed in the incident. After Japan’s surrender in 1945, the government returned to Nanjing and the city regained its status as the capital of China until the Communists shifted the capital back to Beijing in 1949.