Nanjing

China

Nanjing

  Nanjing, the capital of China’s Jiangsu province, is not only central to the country’s history but a vibrant metropolis.
  Nanjing has seen many rulers who  led from the Presidential Palace,  named after China’s first modern  ruler, President Sun Yat-sen.  This sprawling complex of grand  buildings dates back to the Ming  Dynasty and features a mishmash  of various dynastic and European  styles interspersed with classical  gardens and a vast museum of  20th-century China’s history.
  Nearby, you can find the Ruins of  the Ming Imperial Palace, located  in a peaceful park. Although little  remains of the palace apart from  a single large gate, a few stumps  of pillars or walls and a multitude  of worn stone statues, you can  imagine the former grandeur  of the inspiration for Beijing’s  Forbidden City.
  Nanjing today is a sprawling highrise city, as modern and hectic as  any in China. But it’s been around  for a long time, recognised as  one of the Four Great Ancient  Capitals of China and the centre  of numerous dynasties and key  moments in the nation’s history.
  The best place to get a grip on the  sheer bulk of its history is Nanjing  Museum, one of the oldest,  largest and best museums in  China. Well-organised with English  captions and multilingual guides,  it contains vast historic artefacts  and probably needs a day to do it  justice. It also houses one of the  best collections of Ming and Qing  porcelain in the world, as well as a  stunning jade burial suit.
  Many other museums mark  specific historic landmarks that  took place in the city. The Taiping  Heavenly Kingdom Museum,  which charts the 19th-century  Taiping Rebellion, the war  little-known outside of China  that killed more people than  World War One, is housed in the  tranquil riverside Ming Dynasty  Zhanyuan Gardens where rebels  had their headquarters.
  Meanwhile, the city’s most  infamous and tragic event is  remembered at The Memorial  of the Nanjing Massacre that  occurred during the Japanese  occupation in World War Two.
  Nanjing is located on the banks of  the Qinhuai River, the lifeblood of  the city. Along its banks, you can  find some of the most interesting  attractions. Right at the heart of  the city is the Confucian Temple;  the area surrounding it is one of  the most vibrant and popular with  tourists. At night, it’s thronged by  people, and the colourful ancient  buildings are lit up with traditional  lanterns and less-traditional neon  lights that reflect their light  across the river.
  There are several markets here,  including night markets, a decent  place to pick up souvenirs if you’re  prepared to haggle. Popular items  include yuhuashi bracelets and  necklaces made from the local  kaleidoscope-coloured ‘rain flower  stone’ and intricately carved  wooden objects such as boxes  and statues.
  It’s also a good place to try the  local cuisine at the many street  stalls and restaurants that exude  delicious aromas, especially along  Fuzimiao Street. Nanjing is  famous for duck dishes such as  duck blood and tofu noodle soup,  salted duck soup and Jinling roast  duck, the ancestor of Beijing’s  most famous dish. The best  Nanjing food, however, is served  at the revolving restaurant, Plum  Garden, at the top of the Jinling  Hotel in Xinjiekou.
  Nearby, you can find the  Zhanghua Gate, the southern  gate of the walled city constructed  in 1387 during the Ming Dynasty.  The 14- to 21-metre-high walls  stretch around the city, and this  is their grandest gate, the biggest  ever built in China and well worth  climbing to the top to admire  the view.
Nanjing’s most popular outdoor  destination can be found in  its eastern suburbs at Purple  Mountain, named after the  purple-coloured clouds that often  wreath it at sunrise and sunset.  Besides naturally beautiful  forests and lakes, it’s also home  to over 200 scenic spots as well  as historical sites from the Six  Dynasties to the Republic of  China eras.
  The oldest is Linggu temple, built  in the 4th century, one of the  most significant Buddhist sites  in China. In immaculate gardens  surrounded by ancient trees  and populated by yellow-robed  monks, you can wander from its  brightly painted ‘beamless’ hall  to the top of its 60-metre-high  pagoda for magnificent views and  enjoy its famous vegetarian fare  afterwards.
  At the base of the southern  slopes, you’ll find the Xiaoling  Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty, one  of the biggest imperial tombs in  the country. A tree-shaded Sacred  Way, flanked by massive stone  statues of auspicious animals such  as lions and elephants, leads to a  small bridge that crosses into the  impressive and highly decorated  mausoleum itself.
  Perhaps the most visited site on  the mountain is the imposingly  grand Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s  Mausoleum, dedicated to the first  president of the Republic of China,  a pivotal figure in bringing down  the Qing dynasty, and with it, over  2,000 years of imperial rule. It has  the feeling of a pilgrimage site  with thousands of visitors daily. If  you want to know more about the  man himself, there is a museum  dedicated to him here.
  Like any big city, Nanjing has its modern side, with an efficient  metro system and recentlyrevamped airport. All your  contemporary shopping needs  can be met at the international  brand stores in the air-conditioned  malls such as Deji Plaza that  line the streets of the downtown  district around Xinjiekou. This is  sometimes called Nanjing’s  Times Square, and the neon-lit  area is an excellent place for a  stroll after dark even if you don’t  want to shop.
  To get a bird’s eye view of the  city, ascend to the viewing  platform of the 458-metre-high,  futuristic-looking Zifeng Tower  in Gulou District, Nanjing’s tallest  building and the 14th-tallest in  the world. The viewing platform  is on the 72nd floor, with the  Intercontinental Hotel located just  below and high-end restaurants  and a nightclub right at the top.
  Nightlife is another thing the city  doesn’t skimp on, with several  areas of bars and clubs. The most  famous is the 1912 District area,  west of the Presidential Palace,  where international-style bars and  restaurants occupy an entire block  and have something for everyone.  Other nightspots include the  Gulou and University Districts.
Useful info:
  The Lukou International  Airport is 35 kilometres from  the city centre and also has  domestic connections to  most of the country. Two  major train stations serve  regional destinations and  connect to China’s highspeed rail network. 
  The best way to travel  around the city and from/  to the airport is Nanjing’s  excellent metro system,  which is efficient, cheap,  clean and safe.
  Nanjing is one of China’s  ‘furnace’ cities, best visited  outside the hot and muggy  summers, though be warned  it can also get pretty cold  during winter.
  If you’re in town for more  than a few days, pick up  a Nanjing Public Utility IC  card; once charged with  money, it can be used to pay  for most forms of transport  within the city and gives  discounts on the metro  and buses.

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