5 top historic sites in Nanjing

Take a dive into the city’s fascinating past at these historical landmarks

Nanjing was twice capital of China before Beijing took the crown. The city’s fascinating past has long captured the hearts of fans of Chinese history.

Here are 5 of the best locations for nostalgic souls to plot time-travel in Nanjing.

The Presidential Palace (总统府)

The former seat of government for the Republic of China might be the only place in the mainland where the Kuomintang flag is hung proudly and publicly.

The 90,000-square-meter compound dates back 600 years, initially as the residence of a Ming Dynasty official.

The Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen (孙中山) was declared as the first provisional president of the Republic of China here on January 1, 1912.

Chiang Kai-shek, Sun s successor, headquartered his Kuomintang government here from 1946-1949. Visitors can see Chiang’s office, kept in its original state, on the second floor of Zichao Building (子超楼).

292 Changjiang Lu, Xuanwu District 玄武区长江路292号; admission: RMB 40 (US$6.4); open daily 7:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (April-October), 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (November-March)

Xiaoling Tomb of Ming Dynasty (明孝陵)

The mausoleum of the founding emperor of Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang (朱元璋), and his wife Ma, is one of the largest imperial tomb complexes in China.

The 1.7-square-kilometer sepulcher is set in an incredibly scenic environment where seasonal plants form breathtaking backdrops: plum blossom in spring, gingko and maple trees in autumn.

The most iconic part of the 600-year-old tomb is the 800-metre Sacred Path. Four pairs of stone warriors and 12 pairs of beasts play guard to the deceased emperor.

Most of the architecture has been rebuilt. The actual grave is said to lie behind the Ming Lou (the highest building) and is yet to be excavated.

South foot, Zijin Mountain, Xuanwu District 玄武区紫金山南麓; admission: RMB 70 (US$11); open daily 7:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

The Site of the Treasure-ship Shipyard (南京宝船厂遗址景区)

Nanjing is said to be the departure point of Chinese admiral Zheng He’s (郑和) seven epic journeys between 1405-1433 which reached as far as east Africa. And this park is where his majestic “treasure boats” were made.

The Ming Dynasty owned the world’s largest imperial shipyard by the Yangtze River, measuring 2.7 square kilometers and employing more than 30,000 workers.

Only a small section remains today, which now contains three docks, a museum on the Muslim Hui explorer and a massive replica of his “treasure boat.”

57 Lijiang Lu, Gulou District 鼓楼区漓江路57号; admission: RMB 30 (US$4.8); open daily 5:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.

Ming Palace (明故宫)

Unlike the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Ming palace, built in 1367, did not survive.

Some remnants are now open to the public in the Ming Palace Ruins and Wuchaomen Park, which stand opposite each other on East Zhongshan Dong Road.

The former has a restored grand palace gate, now covered in advertisements for new real estate and art exhibitions.

The latter carries a more significant relic: Wuchaomen. This grey-brick gate was the main portal to the Palace and now serves as the background for Nanjing senior citizens for their dancing, tai chi boxing and saxophone practice.

Ming Palace Ruins Park and Wuchaomen Park, Zhongshan Dong Lu, near Metro Line 2 Minggugong Station 中山东路, 近地铁2号线明故宫站; open daily 6:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Pingshi Jie (评事街)

The 600-meter alleyway, situated right in the middle of downtown, is a window to the Nanjingers’ lifestyle before fast urbanization.

The lane looks like a scene lifted straight out of a 1950s’ black-and-white film. Several families share one tiny communal kitchen. A 90-year-old barber is still serving the aging community with the tricks of his trade.

The quickly-disappearing block is the headquarters of Nanjing’s Muslim population and serves amazing beef soup and beef dumplings.

The neighbourhood is already half demolished. Go quickly to catch the last glimpse of old-school Nanjing.

Between Shenzhou Road and Jianye Road, west of South Zhongshan Road 升州路与建邺路之间, 中山南路以西