14 June 2016

Nanjing: China's Southern Capital

Nanjing called me back to China's Jiangsu Province to see the Middle Kingdom's former capital city. Sun Yat-Sen's Mausoleum was on my top list of places to visit, recognising the feeling Chinese people shared for Nanjing impressed me! I zoomed away from my Hubei Province base for Dragon Boat Festival without a seconds thought! Oh, Nanjing was golden! Chaotian, Who?!

Not wasting any time I boarded my China 'high speed train' from Wuhan Railway Station bright and early, I was bound for Nanjing South Railway Station for my Dragon Boat Festival trip. Xiejiekou on the Nanjing Metro had me all confused with it's mammoth twenty-one exits, but thankfully I found my hotel in a respectable amount of time! I didn't have time to make a pre-trip plan because work had been super busy before my June trip arrived, choosing a nearby station on the metro line I was ready for Nanjing to show me everything and more! Getting off the metro at Zhangfuyuan to find a small riverside walkway, centred around numerous hangouts frequented by Nanjing's elders, grandfathers played board games, as their wives cradled their newborn grandchildren without a care in the world, I stopped to take a glimpse of that scene as it looked organic. Nanjing had a lovely vibe, as it served normality in the big city!

Chaotian Gong was in view, I had no idea it even existed! Yes, I was in that much in a rush before that June trip to do my usual pre-trip research! A former Ming Dynasty palace, nowadays Nanjing's Chaotian Gong informs visitors as part of the Nanjing Municipal Museum. I passed through the terracotta red gates, not having one single clue what I was about to see, I was excited! The near empty courtyard and gardens were filled with a sense of chill, considering it was the first day of a National Holiday I was very lucky to be one of the few visitors during that afternoon. I was schooled about the vast history of Nanjing, throughout my visit I was informed about the city's former days as the capital of China and it's main figure, the remarkable Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. I'm no history buff but I just can't say no to a bit of Chinese history from time to time! The stresses of the previous week just melted away, the serene and picturesque settings of Chaotian Palace was bliss. Well yes, China's amazing!

Still on my first day in Jiangsu Province, I wanted to see one more place before taking it easy for the day was pressing on. I made a swift detour from Nanjing's Chaotian Palace to the 1912 Casual Street, I was staring at something I could find in Wuhan's Han Street. I had a little look around to see only bars and restaurants present, before going underground once more. Heading for the Qinhuai River, stopping at Fuzimao to reach the waters of this Nanjing spur from the mighty Yangtze River it was nearing the hours of dusk. I had made up good time since stepping off my 'high speed train' from Wuhan, Hubei, I was hopeful to catch a glimpse of such a popular view. Without further ado, a most darling scene was handed to me with two views from both sides that were effortless to witness. The side that has been captured served a calmer vibe compared with the opposite side that had riverside restaurants and bars. Yes, go on Jiangsu!

Nanjing wasn't the first place I had visited in China's Jiangsu Province, no I spent one week in Suzhou within the same province for training purposes during June 2015. Nanjing didn't have a strong presence of foreigners, saying that the vast majority of tourists that I saw were mostly Chinese tourists who were visiting from other parts of the country for the holiday. I was already looking to the next day, I was planning to see the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the pioneer that paved a way for China after the fall of the final Dynasty. The views of the Qinhuai River gave me life, I had managed to squeeze quite a lot into my first afternoon and evening in Nanjing. Leaving the maze of Chinese tourists behind, I headed back to Zhangfuyuan for some food. With my pizza in hand I wanted nothing more to go back and relax at my hotel with a bit of CCTV 9, the walk back to my hotel didn't go as planned because Nanjing had me lose my sense of direction! No, I didn't appreciate getting lost at all!

Bright and early the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum was calling me, that former Chinese figure was one of the reasons why I had chosen to visit Nanjing, Jiangsu. Following the growing numbers of Chinese tourists from Xiamafang station on Nanjing's metro network, I kept to the well signposted path, I was expecting an epic climb to be ahead of me but I was pleasantly surprised to not have to hike too much! Closing a chapter on China's long Dynasty's, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen showed China that it could survive and become a prosperous country without the rule of its former Emperor's and their Empresses. Since visiting the 1912 Uprising Museum in Wuhan I have taken a keen interest in the work Zhongshan did for China. I tried not to be bothered by the growing numbers of tourists, it was getting more humid by the second, keeping it together I took my photos and proceeded to the top of the steps. Oh, Nanjing was serving!

I couldn't believe the view from the top of the stairs, it was quite a height but the hazy skies masked the view slightly, but I was OK with that! Snaking around the long line I made my way into see the Mausoleum for myself, I was very impressed with what I saw and it slightly reminded me of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with the large sitting statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen as it shared a pose similar to Abraham Lincoln. Two young guys stood at both sides of the entrance to the Mausoleum, they were holding 'no photography' signs but that didn't mean anything to one lady, she attempted to take several photos on her iPhone but I made it very clear to her that she was being extremely disrespectful, it wasn't even my history and I knew how to behave! I really appreciated seeing another place of interest that schooled me further about Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. After making my way back down towards the main entrance I was so thirsty, instead of water I found beer! Yass to Zhongshan and Harbin Beer!

I went back to Fuzimao, the area near the Qinhuai River had something more to show me. I decided to make a whistle-stop visit to the Confucian Temple, otherwise known as 'Dacheng Hall' to see a Nanjing site that had been hailed as a must see whilst in the city. Finding my way around the winding corners amongst the tourist appropriate oriental shops I found the gates to the Confucian Temple. Built in 384 I had a little look around the compact temple garden and peered into one of the main halls. The weather was getting gradually hotter, after giving the temple my full attention I took the chance to get some lunch, before making my next move. Bypassing Mochou Lake I took a taxi back to my hotel to catch some more CCTV 9. Refreshed and relaxed I took an early evening walk from my hotel to the centre of Xiejiekou, it showed me a oriental interpretation of NYC's Times Square with its electric love! A blessed day!

I had no idea how much shopping Xiejiekou had to offer, going back to the start I admired the same energetic sight that greeted me two days previously. I would be returning to a long and stressful week back at work in Wuhan the very next day, so I decided with some forward thinking to get my ASDA milk from the nearest Walmart that happened to be just off the main junction in Xiejiekou, call me sad but I wasn't traipsing all the way to Jianghan Road after getting off that Wuhan bound 'high speed train' the next day! No way, Wuhan! Nanjing was golden, easing my stressed self I was feeling on top form to make the trip back to Wuhan. I saw everything and more during my Dragon Boat Festival trip, seeing my third Zhongshan point of interest will enable me to publish a special blog during the latter part of 2016. The Confucian Temple didn't blow me away but Nanjing's Chaotian Gong showed me why Nanjing was and still is China's Southern Capital! So, Nanjing you better stay golden!

Next Stop, Zhengzhou!

Joseph Harrison

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