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Nanjing Impression: The Sorrowful History and Glorious Culture

The Video Themed with
The Municipal Anthem of Nanjing:
Ode to Jasmine Flower

China’s tradition obviously features symmetry nearly in all the aspects like Yin and Yang in philosophy, double auxiliary gates in architecture (represented by the gates of Forbidden City), left premier and right premier in ancient central governments..., even the city names are also characterized by symmetry, and the widely-known example is that the counterpart of Beijing (北京, Peking, Northern Center or Capital of China) in China is Nanjing (南京, Nanking, Southern Center or Capital of China) aside from the extinct Dongjing(东京, today’s Luoyang in Henan province, and many people nowadays may mistake it as Japan’s Tokyo, which in Chinese is called Dongjing) and Xijing(西京, today’s Xian in Shaanxi province) in history after Song Dynasty(960—1279). Easily known, a city titled Jing(京) is not a common place in China. In a word, in history, Nanjing was the counterpart of Beijing and the national capital of seven dynasties, including the Republic of China. The glory of Nanjing mostly is the greatness of ancient China.

Nanjing is a capital of Jiangsu province and the second largest city inferior to Shanghai in Yangtze River Delta Region. Nanjing together with Shanghai and Hangzhou shapes the triangle of Southeast China both in economy and culture, because they are all the regional centers of this region. Also anciently called Stone City(石头城), Jinling(金陵), Jianye(建业), Jiankang(建康), Qinhuai(秦淮), Yingtian(应天) and Jiangning(江宁), Nanjing is surely the representative of Chinese historic and cultural cities and the most-famous tourist destinations in China and Asian Region. The municipal anthem of Nanjing is Ode to Jasmine Flower(茉莉花), and municipal tree is cedar and municipal flower is plum blossom. The symbol of Nanjing is a sacred creature named Bi Xie(辟邪, exorcise evil spirits). Boasting its time-honored history (excluding the nightmare of Nanjing Massacre or Nanking Rape in 1938) and culture as well as its privileged status among cities of China, Nanjing today is also the economic and political center of China. It is also said that Nanjing will be the fifth Municipality under the direct administration of central government next to Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing, due to its special status and influence as equal as Beijing. At present, Nanjing is China’s new center of scientific and technological innovation and the base of national innovation strategy as well as one of Chinese largest transport hubs. Incidentally, Nanjing is also the winner of Special Reward from United Nations Human Settlements Programme or UN-Habitat for its perfect residential environment, as well as the host city of the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2014.

The Sorrowful History of Nanjing

Sun Yuanliang
Portrait of General Sun Yuanliang

Dr. Sun Yat-sen once said Nanjing as Chinese ancient capital is older than Beijing. But Nanjing is not as lucky as Beijing in history, nearly, in wartime of every dynasty of China, Nanjing was seriously broken even destroyed, but also reconstructed over and over again. In the mind of Chinese people, Nanjing is the best textbook of Chinese history. Traveling Nanjing is reading Chinese history or recall the past of China. Each relics or historic site of Nanjing plastered in the strong humanity. Visiting each of them means a serious dialogue with history. If we just consider the natural beauty, Nanjing possessing the splendid mountains and waters will not be inferior to any other city of China. But the more attractive side of this city is its history and the uniqueness of humanity. Nanjing is a city that needs the careful taste, but its elegance and air are quite different from Suzhou and Hangzhou, both of which are just the regional distinction, Nanjing is a frustrated Emperor compared to Suzhou and Hangzhou, the rich aristocrats leading a leisure life. Just for the tragic frustrations, Nanjing keeps its eternality as old as the whole China.

Compared to Shanhai Pass(山海关), Zhonghuamen(中华门, the gate of China) of Nanjing is not in the shade at all. In some way, Zhonghuamen is more significant and important. This viewpoint is quite reasonable. Shanhai Pass used to be the vital place to prevent the troops of Qing from entering the center of China, but the failure of Ming government on the battleground brought the aftermath of 7-days slaughters in Yangzhou. In history, Shanhai Pass the gate of a dynasty, the miss means the bloody transition of dynasties. Zhonghuamen castle is the barrier of a city, and the miss of this place doomed the city and even the whole country to shame and mourning. The troop of Qing going through Shanhai Pass means the passing bell of the regime of Han nationality. Japanese troop going through the Zhonghuamen via tanks means the nightmarish time of Chinese history, Nanjing Massacre, began. The general of Nanjing defense troop was called Sun Yuanliang(孙元良), a handsome and vigorous man governing one of the most powerful troops of the Republic of China and also the best troop to prevent Nanjing from invasion. It was said that Sun Yuanliang hid himself in a bawdyhouse on the Qinhuai River, and with the help of the patriotic concubines, he escaped from Nanjing… Today, few people know who he was. Introducing him, the best measure is telling other people he was the father of Qin Han(秦汉), a famous popular movie star in Taiwan. Popularity may be the best prescription to forget the history. How about the rank of The Castle of Zhonghuamen in the world, we really do not know. But in China, it is absolutely the No.1. The total area is more than 11,000 square meters. There are 27 soldier-hiding caves, and the largest one can hold more than 1, 000 soldiers. The battle in Zhonghuamen was the most severe in the whole warfare of protecting Nanjing. Due to the desperate defense, the atrocity of Japanese invaders would be so bad!

Mingxiao Mausoleum
The Mingxiao Mausoleum

If the great wall used to play the role of protecting the whole country, the ancient city wall of Nanjing boasting The No.1 in the world was for protecting the whole city. In some way, a city, especially like Nanjing, Beijing and Xian, is the epitome of a country. Emperor Taizhu(明太祖), Zhu Yuanzhang(朱元璋, also called Emperor Hongwu), was proud of constructing the world’s largest city and made sure that his reign would last forever. However, his fourth son named Zhu Di(朱棣) usurped the throne from his assigned inheritor, Zhu Yunwen(朱允文), the grandson of Emperor Taizhu of Ming Dynasty. But Zhu Di did not dare to stay in Nanjing to dominate the whole country, and he knew he could not press down the grievance and the disobedience from the government to the folk community. He moved his authorities to Beijing, the northern center of China, and developed the Ming Dynasty in succession, but he did not dare to abolish the central government system in Nanjing but kept it with cap in hand for many years. Emperor Chengzhu(明成祖) was indeed scared of the great power of Nanjing which was built by his father, Zhu Yuanzhang, because he knew that he was not legitimate and his succession was not absolutely admirable either. In comparison with Beijing, Nanjing is vividly close to tragedy and sense of alienation.

So many historians believe Nanjing is not a lucky city and can not be selected as the capital of China. The rooted character of Nanjing is romance and spirituality, but lack of masculinity and ambition. The history indeed shows us the sorrowful scenes of each dynasties selecting Nanjing as capital. The last king of Wu Kingdom named Sun Hao(孙浩, 242-284), in three kingdoms period, shouldered the coffin to meet the troops of Jin, the strongest power in China at the time. The last king of Chen Kingdom named Chen Shubao(陈叔宝, 553—604) held his beloved concubine jumped into the well. The final king of South Tang Kingdom named Li Yu(李煜, 937 - 978), said farewell to his beloved concubines with heart-broken tears. As the northern powers defeated Northern Song Dynasty and enslaved Emperors Huizong and Qinzong of Northern Song Dynasty(1127-1279), Zhao Gou(赵构, 1107-1187), the Emperor Gaozong and the first emperor of Southern Song Dynasty, moved to Hangzhou rather than Nanjing, though Lu You(陆游, 1125—1210), the greatest patriotic poet in Southern Song Dynasty, largely recommended Nanjing as the capital. Emperor Gaozong for this reason was always condemned. But in fact, the duration of Southern Song Dynasty was much longer than any dynasty selecting Nanjing as capital. Superstitiously, Nanjing may be not suitable to be a capital, and it is mingled with too much misfortune and desperation. Perhaps, Kang Youwei(康有为, 1858 -1927) was aware of this and he advocated Emperor Guangxu to move to Shanghai instead of Nanjing to avoid the strong resistance force from the old school. Before Nanjing was selected to be the capital of The Republic of China, many founding members suggested choosing Beijing as capital. Maybe, Nanjing indeed is not suitable to be a capital compared to Beijing. So today, we always say Nanjing leaves us nothing but the tombs and the sorrow of history.

The Attractions of Humanity in Nanjing

Jiming Temple
The Scene of Jiming Temple

The tourists believe traveling in Nanjing for mausoleums and Hangzhou for temples. That is mostly dependable. Due to the long history and many wars, a large number of famous tombs left like Mingxiao Mausoleum, Zhongshan Mausoleum (Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum), Xiao Xiu Tomb, Xiao Jing Tomb, Xiao Hui Tomb and Xiao Hong Tomb are the relics of history. The top-ten sites featuring the history and culture are: Wuyixiang(乌衣巷), Chaotiangong(朝天宫), Taoyedu(桃叶渡, or Peach Leaf Ferry, which is said to be connected with a love story of Wang Xizhi and his concubine called Taoye), Chengxianjie(成贤街), Longpanli(龙蟠里), Fuzimiao(夫子庙), Changganli(长干里), Xiaolingwei(孝陵卫), Mochoulu(莫愁路) and Hujuguan(虎踞关). Recently, the tourism authorities of Nanjing recommended several themed attractions.

The first one is theme with Six Dynasty Tour of Cherishing the Past. Nanjing traditionally is crowned to be the Ancient Capitals of Six Dynasties, comprised of East Wu State, East Jin, Song State, Qi State, Liang State and Chen State. A multitude of relics remained like Taicheng(台城, where is the best place to see Zhongshan Mountain, Xuanwu Lake and the willows of Taicheng are also the imagery repeatedly mentioned in the poems or prose of writers in different dynasties. And the famous poem is”无情最是台城柳,依旧烟笼十里堤”, which means the most heartless is the willows of Taicheng, and they still cover the ten-mile causeway like the mist), Jiming Temple(鸡鸣寺, one of the oldest temples in China and used to be the royally exclusive temple for Emperor Wudi(梁武帝) in Liang State, besides there is a nunnery called Tongtai Temple, which is the first nunnery of China),Xuanwu Lake(玄武湖, the quite famous lake in Nanjing), Qingliang Mountain and Stone Town, Mochou Lake, Chaotian Palace, Fuzimiao(the deluxe zone of Six Dynasties and ten-mile Qinhuai River), Qixia Mountain(栖霞山, Sheli Pagoda, Qianfo Rock, Imperial Garden of Emperor Qianlong and Red-Leaf Valley as well as innumerous tombs and ancient towns)

The second one is themed with Attractions of Ming Dynasty, and as the center of China, Nanjing owned many glorious intangible and tangible honors. Mingxiao Mausoleum(明孝陵, the site of World Heritage and the mausoleum of Emperor Taizhu Zhu Yuanzhang), Linggu Temple(灵谷寺, the biggest temple of Ming Dynasty), The Relics of Ming The Imperial Palace(currently called Wuchaomen Park is the original version of Beijing Forbidden City and used to be the imperial palace of Emperor Hongwu, Emperor Jianwen and Emperor Yongle), Xuanwu Lake Park, Gulou Park(鼓楼公园,Drum Tower Park used to be the sacred site of national rites), Yuejiang Tower(阅江楼, connected with Emperor Taizu), Jinghai Temple and Tianfei Palace, The Themed Park of Shipbuilding Site of Zheng He used for visiting the western world(the biggest shipbuilding site in middle ages), Mochou Lake Park(莫愁湖公园, The Classical Garden of Ming Dynasty, the Shengqi Tower in garden used to be the place of Emperor Taizu played chess with Xu Da, one of the most famous generals in the process of founding Ming Dynasty), Chaotian Palace(朝天宫, the site of holding national sacrificing rite in Ming Dynasty), Zhonghuamen Castle(The World’s No.1 city-wall castle, and one of the largest city gates in Ming Dynasty ), the area including Fuzimiao, The Former Residence of Li Xiangjun, Zhan Garden and Bailuzhou Garden(the former site of Guozijian and the biggest imperial examination site in Ming and Qing Dyansties), Qingliang Gate and Guilian Town, Donghua Gate and Xian Gate(东华门和西安门, the only gate relic of the imperial city and imperial palace), Taicheng(visiting City Wall Museum), Wuchaomen Gate(the place to learn the layout of imperial palace of Ming Dynasty) as well as Dongshuiguan(东水关, to see the ancient water conservancy hub).

Nanjing Overlooked View
The Scene of Nanjing City

The third is themed with the architecture of The Republic of China. Currently, there are more than 1000 cultural sites of The Republic of China in Nanjing, and Nanjing is the typical representative of the culture of ROC (The Republic of China). The worthwhile sites include the line from Zhongshan Port to Zhongshan Donglu (used to be the Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Railway, Ministry of Legislation, The Supreme Court, The Ministry of Diplomacy, Gulou Hospital, Administration of Justice, Central Hotel, Yixian Bridge, Zhongshan Hotel, China’s Second Historical Archive, Nanjing Museum and Zhongshan Gate), Nanjing Museum(The national central museum of China built under the support of Cai Yuanpei in 1930s, and currently is the third largest museum in China), Zhongshan Mausoleum and Zhongshan Scenic Area(The Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen ), Linggu Temple and Linggu Park(the cemetery of soldiers and generals fell in battle during the Northern Expedition as well as the tombs of Tan Yankai and Deng Yanda), Presidential Office, New Village of Meiyuan(梅园新村, the site of Negotiation between Kuomintang and CPC), Pilu Temple(毗卢寺, The nationwide Buddhism center of ROC), Nanjing University, Southeast University and Nanjing Normal University, The Mansion Region on Yihe Road(the governmental offices and embassy sites as well as the mansions of Wang Jingwei, Yan Xishan, Chen Bolei and Marshall), Nanjing Geological Museum(one of the oldest themed museum with natural science and technology in China), the architecture on both sides of Beijing Donglu and Beijing Xilu.

Qinhuai River
The Night View of Qinhuai
River Scenic Area

The fourth is themed with the Qinhuai River Scenic Area. This is the most scenic area in Nanjing, the night view and classic charm attract many tourist at home and abroad. This is the best show of the romantic and humanistic side of Nanjing. The fame of Eight Beauties of Qinhuai River has spread all over the country. Dozens of years ago, Zhu Ziqing and Yu Pingbo wrote two articles with the same name: Jiangshengdengyinglideqinhuaihe(桨声灯影里的秦淮河, Qinhuai River in the shade of light and sound of oar). Nanjing since then gradually was represented by this scene. The detailed attractions of these area include the former residences of Wang Dao(王导) and Xie An(谢安), former residences of Shen Wansan(沈万三), Wu Jingci(吴敬梓), Li Xiangjun(李香君) and Qin Dashi(秦大士), Fuzimiao(Jiangnan Gongyuan), Fugui Tower(伏龟楼), Chaotiangong, Nanjing Yunjin-Brocade Museum(the miracle display of ancient handicraft technique) and other small but also impression sites.

Nanjing is also a center of Buddhist temples, and the famous temples include: Jiming Temple, Xuanzhuang Temple, Pilu Temple, Linggu Temple, Sutra Library of Zhongshan Mausoleum, Qixia Temple, Jiufeng Temple, The Relic of Dabaoen Temple, Jinli Nunnery, Hongjue Temple, Wuxiang Temple, Baosheng Temple, Zhenru Temple, Huiji Temple and Lingyan Temple. And there are also many famous museums, memorials, libraries and parks like Nanjing Museum, Nanjing Municipal Museum, Nanjing Yunjin Brocade Museum, Nanjing Folk Custom Museum, Zhongshan Botanical Park, Jiangsu Provincial Gallery, Nanjing Library, Nanjing Museum of Paleontology, Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, The Taiping Kingdom History Museum, and Memorial Hall of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Display Hall of Jiangnan Gongyuan and so on.

Nanjing University
The View of Nanjing University

Nanjing is the third largest higher-education center, and the representative universities or colleges are below: Nanjing University, Southeast University, Hohai University, Nanjing Agricultural University, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing University of Science & Technology, Nanjing Forest Police College, Nanjing Sport Institute, PLA University of Science and Technology, PLA Nanjing Political College, PLA Nanjing International Relation College, PLA Naval Command College, PLA Nanjing Army Command College, Provincial Universities and CollegesNanjing Normal University, Nanjing University of Technology, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing University of Finance & Economics, Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing Institute of Technology,Nanjing Institute of Physical Education,Nanjing Arts Institute,Nanjing Audit University,Nanjing Xiaozhuang College and Jinling Institute of Technology.

Nanjing is also a paradise to taste the perfect cuisines and it snacks are also quite famous all around the country. The local festivals are quite also quite unique. Every year, many tourists swarm into Nanjing to taste the delicacies and enjoy the special local festivals and galas. The traffic of Nanjing is quite convenient, and travelers can arrive in Nanjing by air, water and land. Especially, the high-speed railway is the highly recommended vehicle to travel Nanjing. Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, Shanghai-Nanjing High-Speed Railway, Hefei-Nanjing High-Speed Railway and Hangzhou- Nanjing High-Speed Railway are all the hot selection for travel to Nanjing.

Nanjing in Southeast China, exactly in Yangtze River Delta Region, is a center of politics and culture, and its status is not inferior to Shanghai at all. Traveling in China without Nanjing is not a perfect experience.

Writer: David from Seeraa International
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