Nanjing is a city in China I’ve wanted to visit but never found an opportunity to do so. The city has a rich history; it served as China’s capital at various times during imperial and modern times. Jun and I thought a weekend trip to Nanjing at the start of February would be a nice break from our routine. After Jun got off work on Friday, we started our trip with an evening flight to Nanjing.

Day 1

On Saturday, we decided to first visit Purple Mountain. This area is located just outside the core area of Nanjing. There are more than 200 cultural and natural sites dotted throughout this scenic spot. It’s easy to get to by using Nanjing’s metro.

We started our trip at Ming Xiaoling. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the location of the mausoleum of the Hongwu Emperor, who established the Ming dynasty in 1368. The site is quite large with different sections representing the symbolic importance of the emperor in his eternal rest. Serendipitously we learned that the plum blossoms within the site had started to bloom. Jun and I enjoyed walking around the blossoms as we explored the site.

From Ming Xiaoling we next walked to the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. The mausoleum commemorates the life of Dr. Sun Yat-sen who is considered the founder of modern China after the dissolution of the imperial system. The main hall is located up a flight of stairs. When we visited it was foggy and it was difficult to see upwards. The view from the top of the main memorial hall reminded me of the weather in the Pacific Northwest in the United States. 

From the mausoleum, we next visited Linggu Temple. This Buddhist temple was built during the Liang Dynasty in 515. We visited several buildings and structures around the temple, such as the Linggu Pagoda which offered some nice views of the surrounding land. 

As we left Linggu Temple, Jun and I decided to visit Ming Xiaoling one more time so we could walk along the sacred paths and enjoy the plum blossoms from Plum Blossom Hill.

When we had seen all we wanted to see at Purple Mountain, we next traveled to Xuanwu Lake to visit Nanjing’s Ancient City Wall. Walking along the wall was nice as it is one of the taller walls I’ve experienced. It also offered nice views of Jiming Temple. This temple is also a Buddhist temple that was built during the Liang dynasty around 527.

Afterward, Jun and I then went to have dinner at a local restaurant in the Nanjing 1912 Block near the old Presidential Palace. The restaurant—Minguohong Residence—is located in an old historic house. The food was delicious and the service was lovely.

From there we next visited Nanjing Fuzimiao. Nanjing Fuzimiao is a popular tourist attraction. This scenic area is known for the Confucius Temple and a former imperial examination hall located within it. Around these sites are pedestrian streets full of restaurants and shops. When we visited Jun and I took a boat ride along the Qinhuai River. As we went along the river we were treated to seeing lanterns along the river.

Jun and I found this area afterwhile a little exhausting as we had to navigate through so many people. We decided to walk a bit further toward the Gate of China. This entryway is the largest gate and defensive complex in Nanjing and the world. Jun and I thought the site would be closed at night, but it ended up being open until 10:00. One thing we were able to experience was the light show that was shown within the different courtyards of the complex. That was a pleasant surprise. We also were able to walk along the top of the city wall, which offered us a nice and quiet way to end our day. By the time Jun and I returned to the hotel, I had walked 44,058 steps that day!

Day 2

On Sunday we first visited the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. The memorial is a complex of outdoor exhibits, burial sites, artifacts, and testimonials from survivors of the massacre. The Nanjing city government built the memorial to commemorate the roughly 300,000 lives that were lost when the Imperial Japanese army invaded and occupied Nanjing beginning in 1937. At that time the city was the capital of China.

From the memorial hall, we next went and visited the old Presidential Palace. The national government of China was housed here from 1927 until it was moved to Taipei in 1949. It now is a museum that tells the events and lives of the people who worked here during that period. The site is an interesting mix of architectural styles from art deco to traditional southern gardens. I particularly enjoyed walking around the West Garden.

Finally, the last touristy thing Jun and I did that day was to return to Nanjing Fuzimiao. There were considerably fewer people during the day; it was easier to navigate through the area. Jun and I visited the Imperial Examination Museum of China. The museum is located beneath the historic Jiangnan Examination Hall. During the imperial period, this examination hall was the largest in China. The modern museum is built underground and requires that you go up through the different exhibits about the development and significance of the imperial examination system.

Afterward, Jun and I went to this lovely dessert café—Qingdou Jianailao—that had some wonderful homemade cheesy snacks and ice cream. The owner of the place was charming and spoke to us in Chinese and English. She then had us try some samples of the different desserts she had made that day. I particularly enjoyed tasting the ice cream! 

That was the last thing we did in terms of visiting the city. Jun and I went back to the hotel to collect our things and then take a car to the airport. Everything went smoothly. We also had a nice dinner at the airport branch of Liuhuachun—a local restaurant first established in 1906. The food was delicious and a nice departure from what you would typically find to eat at an airport.

Jun and I were glad we decided to visit Nanjing. The city is full of history and wonderful places to visit. While it would have been nice to spend a little bit more time there, it now gives us a reason to return.

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