Exploring China’s Southern Capital
March 21, 2012

~ By Dev Lewis

Shanghai has been unreal, but I needed to wander a little further into China, so a group of friends and I booked a night at a hostel in Nanjing. We found a very nice hostel, with private rooms and clean bathrooms (and WiFi) costing only about 80 RMB (US$13) a night.

Located to Shanghai’s North West and the capital of Jiangsu province, it is the history of the city that makes this place worth exploring. Nanjing, which means Southern Capital in Mandarin has been the capital of China during 6 different dynasties, most recently during the 1920s, when the Kuomindang ruled. The city was a major actor during the early days of the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911, and therefore pays homage to the father of modern China Dr. Sun-Yat-Sen. Some of the of the biggest foreign invasions in the 20th century, occurred here by the Japanese in 1937. With a population of 5 million, Nanjing is also the second largest commercial city in the region of East China, after Shanghai.

So on Friday I was relaxed on a comfortable 2-hour train watching the Chinese landscape transform. After 45 minutes of residential projections into the sky, the landscape changed to farms and tiny factories, until it re-transformed again into a similar city landscape. Oh, and a quick note, these train stations were the size and sight of a large airport. It was a very comfortable and fast ride there and back.

So bag on shoulder I began.

The Religion of China
The concept of religion in China is very different to most parts of the world. The Ethnicity, of almost 90 percent of the population is Han Chinese. Most of whom, in accordance with the Communist principles that formed the People’s Republic of China don’t have any official religion. Instead, As a result of living as a society ruled by various emperors since time in memoriam, the nations former emperors and leaders are revered.

The Sun Yat sen Mausoleum, exemplifies this concept. Located on a hill in a large Nature reserve, walking up the 440 steps to the mausoleum, the view of the valley is breathtaking. It seemed like the view from the mythical Chinese mandate of heaven.

Sun Yat Sen is the called the father Modern China, similar to Mahatama Gandhi in India. He ended the reign of the last empire of the Ming dynasty in 1911. Many people in front of me rubbed their hands on the door of this tomb, behavior most often seen in temples and Churches. In India, the reverence to Gandhi is not half at this level, let alone any politicians since him.

A history lesson
As I went from place to place Nanjing was proving to be very revealing into the perceptions of modern Chinese people as later in the day I visited the “Massacre of Nanjing museum”. This massacre occurred in1937, shattering the local society with over 300,000 people died and countless wounded and women raped at the hands of the Japanese invaders. If you’ve read any modern Chinese history book, “The Rape of Nanjing” is a famous chapter or mention. The museum, to my surprise was extremely well designed, very informative, equipped with modern technology, and even free to enter. It left no story untold- from the Chinese side that is. Either way the experience leaves you silent and sober, as one would expect after reading the story of those that suffered, the lives destroyed and the atrocities that occurred, all for the most selfish of reasons. Events like these have defined Chinese nationalism for centuries. Ever since her colonists, first Portugal, then the Britain and the Japanese; Chinese society has suffered humiliation at the hands of foreigners. This has certainly led to modern Chinese leadership perceptions, and China’s cautious foreign posture. Its also such events that bind the nation together.

Nanjings’ cuisine isn’t much for the palate – a specialty includes dried duck that is local to the area. I did buy this bottle of local alcohol, with a scorpion at the bottom of the bottle though (in pic above). Coming from Shanghai, the nightlife was more of a miss than a hit in terms of the area, but still fun. Yet, I think one night was not enough to make a fair judgment.

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