On our first visit to Nanjing, we learnt about the imperial heritage and history of this former capital city of China. Continuing on this vein, we set out to explore the ruins of the Ming Palace upon which the Forbidden City of Beijing was designed and explore some of the last surviving Ming city walls in China.
Ming Palace ruins
Located in Wǔcháomén Park in the east of Nanjing, the foundations and column bases show the layout of this once Royal Palace home to China’s ruler. The only structure that truly remains is the Meridian Gate at the southern end of the park which you can both view and climb upon. Sited behind the gate are a series of small humpback bridges that anyone who has visited Beijing’s Forbidden City will recognise.
As a free attraction, this is a great opportunity to view the remains of old China and see the people of modern China as they enjoy the green space, playing games, practising circus skills, skateboarding and even ballroom dancing!
Ming city walls
One of the more famous features of Nanjing, its complete Ming city walls are some of the last examples found anywhere in China.
At its height, Nanjing’s Royal Palace was protected by four concentric rings of city walls that took some 28 years to construct and large lengths of which still exist today.
We found two sections of the walls that visitors can explore upon, for a price. The eastern section around Zhongshan Gate is located on the same road (albeit in the opposite direction) as the Mingugong Metro Station used to visit the Ming palace ruins, close to the Nanjing Museum. At ¥20, you can explore the wall which looks out over the foot of Purple Mountain, with the wall nestled amongst developments of modern Nanjing.
The second section was behind the Jiming Temple and runs along the bank of Xuanwu Lake. Although slightly more expensive at ¥30, we felt that this was far more cost effective, given that the wall extends from this location for about 5 km across the two directions, has great views of the temple and the lake, not to mention the display of ancient cannons upon the wall included. In addition, this section includes – at the junction between the two walls at the Jiming Temple – an exhibition on the formation and history of the walls.
This is the busiest Buddhist temple in Nanjing, originally constructed in the 6th Century and, whilst reconstructed several times since then, retains many of the features and qualities of older temples. Exploring it during the day, it wasn’t overly crowded by tourists and you had the opportunity to see the monks both in training and in prayer. On top of that, the temple’s vegetarian restaurant serves delicious food at reasonable prices.
At ¥10 each, the price is very affordable to enter and includes incense to present as an offering, allowing you to take a small part in the life of the temple.
Some additional photos from our exploration of the Ming history of Nanjing: