After Suzhou, it was time for me to move to Nanjing – the next destination during my stay in China, in June 2016. I’ve been to Nanjing before, but I was very happy to visit this great Chinese city again.
MY TRAVEL FROM SUZHOU TO NANJING
I travelled from Suzhou North Railway Station, which I 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 the metro map is not 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! The added obstacle was the security screening at the entrance to the station. All train stations in China have airport like security checks. Clearly, China takes security issues seriously!
Therefore, if you need to catch the train from this station, allow at least one hour to arrive there, plus time to enter the station and reach the platform. In any case, a much better option is Suzhou Railway Station, because it is much closer. Suzhou North Railway Station is simply too far away and it takes too long to get there.
Perhaps, the only bonus was that the biggest part the journey was over ground and I had the opportunity to see areas 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 the high speed train, took approximately 40 minutes. I arrived to Nanjing South Railway Station. The metro system perfectly connects this station with other destinations in the city. I travelled in 2nd class and paid 99.5 yuan for the train ticket from Suzhou to Nanjing.
THE SOUTH CAPITAL
Nanjing is the capital city of the Jiangsu province. It’s 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 encircle the city’s inner area. Its previous name was Nanking. It’s a very green city, in fact, my Chinese friends told me that it was one of the greenest cities in China.
WHERE TO STAY IN NANJING?
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 Hotel, some 10 minutes away from the main pedestrian area, therefore within the walking distance. It’s a good and not too expensive four-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 after all day out, you come back to your room in the evening. You don’t need to spend a lot of time looking for a place to eat or go for a drink, because everything is right there.
I spent 2 days in Nanjing and I visited the following historical sites:
1. THE CONFUCIAN TEMPLE
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, but it was then repeatedly damaged and rebuilt. The Japanese burnt it to the ground in 1937. However, 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 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’s bustling, colourful and you will inevitably end up full of memorable impressions.
2. THE PURPLE MOUNTAIN
The Purple Mountain (The Zhongshan Mountain National Park) is one of the four most famous mountains in Southern China. Apparently, its name comes from purple clouds that often adorn the top of the mountain. It’s very beautiful and it’s also historically and culturally rich. It contains more than two hundred scenic spots, fifteen key historical and cultural relics under the state protection and one world cultural heritage site.
But, it is not possible to see all of that 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 its two most impressive sites.
3. THE XIAOLING MAUSOLEUM OF THE MING DYNASTY
The Xiaoling Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty is the largest imperial mausoleum in Nanjing. It was constructed in 1381. From 1398, it serves as a 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003.
4. DR. SUN YAT-SEN’S MAUSOLEUM
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 between 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, but to Xiaoling station for the Ming Dynasty mausoleum. There are buses that will take you to these two sites or you can take a sightseeing vehicle. You will find them in front of these two metro stations. Certainly, it’s all well organised and very easy to manage.
THE NANKING MASSACRE
Before I finish this post, I would also like to mention one more important event from Nanjing’s relatively recent history. I didn’t know anything about this event 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, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Nanking was the capital of the Republic of China.
The massacre started on 13 December 1937, the day when the Japanese army captured Nanjing and it lasted for six weeks. During that period, soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army disarmed Chinese soldiers, committed widespread rape and looting. Also, they murdered between 40000 and 300000 Chinese civilians.
This is a very touchy subject for the people in Nanjing. They clearly remember the massacre and honour victims of this gruesome crime.
If you visit China and if you have time, go to Nanjing. It really is a great city, with great history!