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Nanking Sights and Landmarks Guide, China

One of Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Nanking or Nanjing (as the city is known presently) has been a huge draw for tourists. Like other Eastern Chinese cities say, Shanghai and Hangzhou, Nanking has undergone extensive industrialization and modernization, but still the city’s historic heritage of ancient palaces, temples, monuments and ruins are its prime attractions. Nanking also scores high on the scenic front with its hills, lakes, rivers, parks and gardens; even the many high-rises of Nanking’s downtown area are pleasantly interrupted with leafy boulevards. Besides, there are quite a few museums, memorials, opera/theater houses, etc. in Nanjing and below we shall deal with different Nanking sights – both natural as well as man-made.

Nanking Sights – Natural Attractions

Set amidst the evergreen Purple Golden Mountain and the Yangtze River, Nanking is a place of great natural beauty that decks up in different hews and different moods in different seasons. The city also has two natural lakes – Lake Mochou and Lake Xuanwu. There are quite a few gardens and parklands within the city’s limits; some of these like the Xuyuan Garden and the Zhanyuan Garden (both built during Ming Dynastic rule) have added to the picturesque beauty of Nanjing for centuries. The Nanjing Botanical Garden is yet another city tourist attraction that is quite utilitarian because of its medicinal plants.

Nanking Sights – Man-made Attractions

Speaking of Nanking’s man-made attractions, these can broadly be divided under two headings – historical attractions and modern attractions. Nanking’s major historical attractions take you back to the glorious period of the Ming Dynasty’s rule, especially the initial years when the city acted as a capital. Chief among these are the ruins of the Ming Palace, the Ming-period city wall with the Zhonghua Gate, the Chaotian Palace, the Drum Tower and the Xiaoling Mausoleum of the Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (the founder of the Ming Dynasty). (In fact, Zhu Yuanzhang is the only Ming emperor who was buried outside Beijing).

Beside these Ming-heritage monuments, quite a few ancient structures and/or ruins like the Stone City deserve to be named among top historic Nanking sights. The city’s many ancient temples like the Confucius Temple, Jiming Temple, Linggu Temple and the Porcelain Pagoda, etc. are worth visiting.

Nanking’s second stint as a capital began when the Republic of China was formed in the early years of the 20th century and many of the city’s important buildings like the Presidential Palace, Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, etc. belong to that period of Chinese history. The city’s university complexes, the Purple Mountain Observatory and important cultural centers like the Nanjing Museum Complex and the Jiangsu Art Gallery, built around the same time, to pull tourists in large numbers.

Nanking, however, refused to rest on the laurels of its past and has seen rapid modernization. If you go around the city, you will find that Nanjing has quite a few important landmarks like the Monument to the Crossing of Yangtze River and modern architectural marvels like the Yangtze River Bridge (with its observatory deck) as well as the concrete-built electricity pylons at the Yangtze River Crossing.

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