Beijing has the Forbidden City. Shanghai lights up the Bund, the waterfront area in central Shanghai. Xi’an houses the Terracotta warriors. In Nanjing, the following tourist sites tell the stories of the city’s past and present.
The Confucius Temple (夫子庙)
Built as the site to worship the great Chinese thinker Confucius and to study his philosophy, the shrine known as Fuzi Miao, has been a local cultural centre since its establishment in 1034. This is one of the oldest structures in Nanjing history.
Its authority peaked in the Ming Dynasty when it served as the imperial examination hall.
The incense-filled temple was destroyed several times over its history. Nanjing's government revamped the 26,300 square-meter complex in 1984, which now contains a massive bronze Confucius statue, standing 4.18 meters high and weighing two and a half tons.
Confucius Temple, 1 Qinhong Road, Fuzi Miao Pedestrian Street, Qinhuai District秦淮区夫子庙景区步行街秦虹路1号; admission: RMB 30 (US$4.8); open Monday-Thursday 9:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., Friday-Sunday: 9:00 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
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Ming City Walls (明城墙)
Some 35 kilometers of fortifications were ordered to be erected in the capital by Ming’s founder Zhu Yuanzhang between 1366 and 1393.
Originally there were three walls in Nanjing history: one circling the city, one around the Imperial palace and one surrounding the Emperor’s hall.
About a quarter of the outer City Walls still stand.
Zhonghuamen (中华门) is a grand restored City Wall castle along the Qinhuai River. The stretch at Taicheng (台城) provides a contrasting perspective of Wuxuan Lake, the Wall, Jiming Temple and Nanjing’s rising skyline.
Other Wall remains include Shitoucheng (石头城) and a section along Qinhuai River in Xiaguan District.
Zhonghuamen, 339 Yingtian Da Jie, Qinhuai Districtt秦淮区应天大街339号; admission: RMB 34 (US$5.5); open daily 8:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m. Taicheng, 8 Jeifang Men, Xuanwu District玄武区解放门8号; admission: RMB 15(US$2.4); open daily 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (April-September), 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (the rest of the year) Shitoucheng, near Qingliang Mountain, Gulou District鼓楼区清凉山旁; free entrance; open 24 hours.
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Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum (中山陵)
Nanjing is the birthplace of the Republic of China and the resting place of its founder, Sun Yat-sen.
The influential Chinese revolutionist, who died of lung cancer in 1925, was buried on Zijin Mountain in east Nanjing.
The Kuomintang spent an alleged 1.5 million Yuan (about US$10-20 million today) and nearly four years building the magnificent mausoleum which occupies 80,000 square meters and is surrounded by lush forest.
The memorial archway, mausoleum gate, tombstone pavilion and memorial hall line up on a north-south axis along a 73-meter-high slope.
However, visitors are not permitted to enter or see Sun’s coffin chamber in person.
Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum, Zhongshan Scenic Area, Qixia District 栖霞区钟山风景区 Free entrance; open Tuesday-Sunday 8:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
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Memorial Hall of Victims in Nanjing Massacre (侵华日军南京大屠杀遇难同胞纪念馆)
A museum and memorial spot for the most shocking incident in Nanjing history: a six-week killing spree carried out by the Japanese Army during World War II.
Upon seizing Nanjing from Chinese troops in December 1937, the Japanese soldiers committed large-scale killings and rapes in Nanjing, with an estimated 300,000 victims.
The solemn complex is built on a site where the invaders executed Chinese civilians, or sometimes even buried them alive. In one hall, visitors can see the excavated skeletons from a mass-burial.
The remains and evidence of the massacre, including photos, documents, weaponry and testimonies of survivors, are displayed in a two-story museum.
Memorial Hall of Victims in Nanjing Massacre, 418 Shuiximen Da Jie, Jianye District建邺区水西门大街418号; free; open Tuesday-Sunday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
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Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge (南京长江大桥)
In the 1960s Communist China proclaimed its ability and ambition for modernization through this double-decker rail-road bridge.
This 44 year-old structure was the first of its kind to be designed and built by the People’s Republic, and cost the nation 8 years, 100,000 tons of steel, 1 million tons of cement and RMB 280 million (US$45 million) to complete.
The bridge decorations scream Maoism; passers-by can see statues of a worker, a farmer and a soldier, all holding the little red book promoting Chairman Mao’s philosophy.
Red flags fly atop the two bridgeheads. Visitors can pay to climb up to see a sweeping view of China’s longest river, the Yangtze.
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Take a dive into the city's fascinating past at these historical landmarks