After Suzhou, it was time to move to Nanjing – my next destination during my stay in China in June 2016. I travelled from Suzhou North railway station, which I have already mentioned in my Suzhou post. This station is very far from the city centre, right at the north end of the metro line number 2. I totally miscalculated the time necessary to reach the station, because the scale of a metro map is not a true representation of the distance. In the end, I had to run. I somehow managed to enter the train for Nanjing, literally 2 minutes before departure. My plan was to arrive earlier and to have breakfast at the station! Furthermore, the added obstacle was the security screening at the entrance to the station. All train stations in China have the airport like security checks. Clearly, China takes security issues seriously!
Therefore, if you need to catch a train from this station, allow at least 1 hour to arrive there, plus time necessary to enter the station and to reach the platform. In any case, a much better option is Suzhou railway station because it is much closer. Simply, Suzhou North railway station is too far away and it takes too long to get there. Perhaps, the only bonus was that for the most part the journey to the station was over ground and I had the opportunity to see parts of the city that I would have normally never seen. Although, it was all factories and endless blocks of flats, plus construction sites everywhere.
The journey to Nanjing, on a high speed train, took approximately 40 minutes. I arrived to Nanjing South railway station. The metro system connects this station perfectly with other destinations in the city. I travelled in the 2nd class and paid 99.5 yuan for the train ticket from Suzhou to Nanjing.
Nanjing is the capital of the Jiangsu province and it is a very big city, with the population of over 8 million people. It has a very significant place in the Chinese history and culture. It was the capital city of various Chinese dynasties, additionally it was also the capital city of the republican government, thus covering the time from the 3rd century to 1949. Nanjing is one of the “Four Great Ancient Capitals of China”. The name itself means the South Capital, while Beijing means the North Capital. The city walls enclose the Nanjing City inner area. Its previous name was Nanking. It is a very green city, my Chinese friends told me that it was one of the greenest in China.
This was my third visit to Nanjing. Each time I stayed in a different hotel, hence in a completely different location. Nanjing has an extensive metro system that covers most parts of the city, thus moving around is relatively easy and stress free. However, the best location to stay is the area around the Confucian Temple.
To easily locate this area, on the map of Nanjing, look for Confucian Temple metro station on the line number 3. I stayed in the nearby Holiday Inn Aqua City Nanjing hotel, some 10 minutes away from the main pedestrian area, therefore within the walking distance. It is a good and not too expensive 4 star hotel, adjacent to the Aqua City shopping centre with coffee shops, bars and numerous restaurants. The hotel is in a very convenient location, especially when you come back in the evening after the all day out, thus you don’t need to spend a lot of time looking for a place to eat or to go for a drink.
I spent 2 days in Nanjing and these are the sites that I visited:
– Nanjing Fuzimiao or The Confucian Temple – is on the banks of the Qinhuai River. The temple was constructed during the time of the Song Dynasty in 1034, it was then repeatedly damaged and rebuilt. The Japanese burnt it to the ground in 1937. The local government rebuilt it in 1984.
As a matter of fact, the local government rebuilt the whole area around the temple in 1985, in the architectural style of the Ming and the Qing dynasties. The area consists of numerous tourist shops, bars, restaurants and tea houses.
This is a must see part of the city for anyone visiting Nanjing – it is bustling and colourful and you will inevitably end up full of memorable impressions.
– The Purple Mountain (The Zhongshan Mountain National Park) – is one of four most famous mountains in Southern China. Apparently, its name comes from purple clouds that often adorn the top of the mountain. The mountain is very beautiful and immensely historically and culturally rich. It has more than two hundred scenic spots, fifteen key historical and cultural relics under the state protection and one world cultural heritage site. However, it is not possible to see all of this in one day because the mountain is big and it takes time to move from one site to another. If you choose to spend one day on the Purple Mountain, I would suggest that you visit these two main and the most impressive sites:
– The Xiaoling Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty – is the largest imperial mausoleum in Nanjing. It was constructed in 1381. From 1398, it serves as the burial ground of the first Emperor of the Ming dynasty, the Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang and also of his Empress.
This magnificent mausoleum represents the highest level of architecture and stone carving in the early Ming Dynasty. Consequently, it had a dramatic influence on the pattern of imperial mausoleums in the following five hundred years. The Xiaoling Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty became the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in July 2003.
– Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum – is a burial site of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the great pioneer of China’s democratic revolution and the “Father of the Republic of China”. Led by Dr. Sun, the Chinese people brought down the rule of the Qing Dynasty and ended 2000 years of the feudal monarchy system. This change took the people of China into the modern age. The mausoleum was constructed from 1926 to 1929.
To get to the Purple Mountain, take the metro line number 2 to Xiamafang station for Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum, however to Xiaoling station for the Ming Dynasty mausoleum. There are buses that will take you to these sights or you can take a sightseeing vehicle. These are all available right outside these two metro stations. Certainly, it is all well organised and very easy to manage.
Before I finish this post, I would also like to mention one other important event from Nanjing’s recent history. I did not know anything about it before I went to Nanjing, however my Chinese friends told me about it.
The Nanking Massacre was an episode of mass murder and mass rape, committed by the Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing (Nanking). At the time, Nanking was the capital of the Republic of China, during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The massacre started on 13 December 1937, the day that the Japanese army captured Nanjing and lasted for six weeks. During that period, soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army disarmed Chinese soldiers, committed widespread rape and looting and murdered between 40000 and 300000 Chinese civilians. This is a very touchy subject for the people in Nanjing. Nevertheless, they still seem to clearly remember it and consequently honour the victims of this gruesome crime.
If you visit China and if you have time, go to Nanjing. It is a great city, with great history!