Nanjing (南京) aka Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu province and a city with a prominent place in Chinese history and culture. It has served as the capital of China during several historical periods, and is listed as one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. It has a rich history as a political center, as the capital of early regimes in the south and as the Southern Capital during the Ming dynasty, as well as the seat of the Nationalist Government in the 20th century. It is 2 1/2 hours west of Shanghai by express train. Nanjing is hot and humid in summer, considered one of China’s four “furnace cities.” Winters are cold, with frequent rain or drizzle and low visibility.

Nanjing Presidential Palace Stone Boat in GardenNanjing has an extremely rich and complex history, going back some 5,000 years, documented by the discovery of several prehistoric, Shang and Zhou era sites. During the Warring States period there was a walled city. After the break up of the Han dynasty, Nanjing became the capital of a number of short-lived dynasties. At that time Nanjing was also a center for the propagation of Buddhism.  Nanjing was established as the capital of the Ming by its founder, Zhu Yuanzhang (the Hongwu Emperor). Hongwu repopulated the city with craftsmen and wealthy families from elsewhere in southeastern China, meanwhile deporting most of the resident population to far away Yunnan. He also undertook a massive building program, including an imperial palace and massive city walls, parts of which still stand. The city became an administrative center and the site of imperial examinations, as well as a manufacturing center.

The third Ming emperor, known by his reign title a the Yongle emperor, usurped the throne from his brother and moved the capital back to Beijing. Nanjing continued as a secondary capital.  When the Manchus invaded north China Nanjing held out briefly as a center of Ming resistance, but eventually fell.  With the overthrow of the Manchus in 1911 and the establishment of a Chinese Republic, Nanjing again became the national capital.

The often violent history of the city continued, however, as it was the site of mass executions of Communists by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927, and of the infamous “Nanjing Massacre” by Japanese forces who occupied the city in 1937, when some 300,000 residents of the city perished. After 1945 Nanjing again became the capital of the Kuomintang government. After peace talks between the Kuomintang and the Communists held there in 1947 broke down, Nanjing was captured by People’s Liberation Army in 1949.

Today it is an important industrial city for the automobile, electronics, and machine tool industries, petrochemical production and steel foundries, and aeronautical training.


  • Nanjing Presidential Palace with DJ on famous stepsPresidential Palace (总统府). Spend a day exploring the headquarters of past emperors and the Nationalist government. The Palace includes the former offices of many top governmental officials, including Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen, as well as the former residence of Sun Yat-sen. It is one the few places in mainland China where the flag of the Republic of China still flies. Informational placards around the palace are printed in four languages. Admission ~ RMB 40.
  • Nanjing Museum (南京博物院), (inside Zhongshan Gate). Eleven exhibition halls contain a variety of ancient Chinese artifacts and lots of different culture murals, including the sailing of Zheng He (the eunuch admiral of the Ming Dynasty who explored at least to Africa, perhaps further). Be sure to take a look at the Jiangnan silk-making exhibition. It’s a great place to spend either a hot or rainy day.
  • Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall (侵華日軍南京大屠殺遇難同胞紀念館). Memorializes the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who died at the hands of Japanese troops in Nanjing during World War II. The memorial features an excavated mass burial site, and newly opened tomb-like multimedia museum explains the entire history of the event in English, Chinese, and Japanese. A harrowing, but worthwhile place to visit.
  • Nanjing Confucius Temple LakeConfucius Temple (夫子/夫子廟). Once an imperial examination testing center for the entire Jiangsu region, this museum comprises a tiny fraction of the once-massive original buildings. The rest of the site is a massive, labyrinthine market; a top tourist draw in Nanjing and a place where you can get all your haggling out of your system. Check out the little gold-roofed floating tea houses on the canal, grab some tea on one of the gondolas. On the southern side of town next to Zhonghua Gate and the Taiping Museum.  .
  • Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge (南京长江大桥). This 6km bridge over the Yangtze has sculptures that are classics of Chinese sociallist art; with workers and farmers carrying tools, soldiers carrying weapons, and all of them holding books, most likely Quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong (better known as The Little Red Book). The bridge was built after Soviet advisors left China during the Sino-Soviet Split of the 1960’s, and is therefore the first major project built entirely by Chinese, without foreign help. A new town is currently being constructed on the other side, which may include a direct subway connection in the future.
  • Nanjing Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum StepsThe Sun Yatsen Mausoleum (中山陵), covers an area of 80,000 square meters. Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum is situated in the Zhong Mountain S