This is what my students say about the status of China. The east, all the way from Beijing to Guangzhou, has been heavily developed in the last twenty odd years, compared to the western provinces. Their assessment of the western provinces is us easterners have it better. I’m not going to say yes or no to that opinion only because I have yet to go that far west. Someday I will.
When you add Nanjing to that mix, it’s a city that was once the capital of China on numerous occasions through different periods. It’s the capital of Jiangsu Province, the current province I live in and innumerable tourists pour in wanting to visit Ming Xiaoling’s Mausoleum, the walled city of Nanjing (apparently the longest in the world) and Temple of Confucius. Only a fraction of the sites are listed here.
My feeling is at one time Nanjing was probably lovely and charming. The modern Nanjing is hard for the independent traveler. There is a metro that you can take to many sites, but some of the other ones are a bit difficult to navigate unless you hire a car or join a tour group. For example, Purple Mountain. My friends and I attempted public transportation, but ended up having to find a taxi. That in itself was difficult.
Finding a taxi in Nanjing is next to impossible. Drivers either willfully ignore you or there just isn’t any. There appears to be a shortage of taxis but never a shortage of people. We had also wanted to consider Ming Xiaoling’s Mausoleum. Hongwu Emperor was the founder of the Ming Dynasty, so it seems worth it, but once you are at Purple Mountain you’re relegated to public buses that may not come often or nothing. You could walk up winding mountain roads, but I’m not keen on self torture and blisters.
Aside from this, it seems the municipal government has torn down a good number of older trees that could have beautified the city. I was told by a student who use to study there that the trees were once large, scalloping and wise. What’s left of Nanjing is a sprawling downtown with shopping centres that assault the eye, basically it’s kind of uninspiring. I felt like I was in downtown Toronto and don’t mistake me, I like Toronto, but not in Nanjing. Nanjing is a hot and dusty place, so with car exhaust and the layers of dust, even on a bus shelter bench (my butt said hell no, don’t you sit there), I wasn’t that dazzled.
But I held out hope for Purple Mountain. Called Zijin Shan in Chinese, it’s also known as Purple-Gold Mountain because of how the peaks are enveloped in clouds of purple and gold at dawn or dusk, hence the name following suit. The elevation is 447.1 m (1467 ft). Not shabby at all.
The day I went there was smog. Sigh. And when I landed my feet at the highest point, the surrounding rocks were covered with some graffiti and not the creative kind. There was also a group of what looked like latchkey kids spread out all over the place, playing cards, tossing their litter to the ground. Double sigh. Maybe I’m just an intolerant, old hag now. Who knows.
I’d say the best part of Purple Mountain is the cable car ride, pictures of which, are attached.
At the top, it was so smoggy I gave up trying to capture the scenery, instead capturing myself!
Just a bad travel day? I feel like telling Nanjing, it’s me, not you. Although the truth is, it is Nanjing. Go for the history, not the modern flavor, is what I say.
Photo of Nanjing City Wall: Lauren Romero