We woke up to brilliant, golden rays of sunlight as the modern city of Nanjing came to life. After a delicious hybrid breakfast of American staples and traditional Chinese dishes, we departed the Jinling Hotel by bus to go see the Purple Mountain.
The Purple Mountain encompasses a huge area of land adjacent to Nanjing and is also a public park. It houses the Ming Tombs and Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s mausoleum among several other areas of historical importance. We spent most of the morning there visiting the mausoleum and tombs.
The mausoleum was simply stunning. White slabs of stone formed a collection of gates, stairs, and buildings that all led up to the tomb of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. Once we climbed all of the steps, we could see the massive size of Nanjing. The former Chinese capital seemed to expand endlessly in all directions, only stopping at the rugged mountain ranges that surrounded it. We descended in order to go to the Ming Tombs, which were just a quick walk away from the mausoleum entrance.
We entered the main pathway leading towards the tombs by crossing over a small bridge, then came to a small, rectangular building with a tortoise. The tortoise symbolizes longevity and sits beneath 4 characters that describe the first Ming emperor’s greatness. Two altars for burning currency are located behind the building on both sides and were used to honor the dead. Though the tombs were originally much larger and more complete, wars and time caused much of them to decay or be destroyed. However, we discovered that the Sacred Way was still in near-original condition; it was a sight to behold.
The Sacred Way, a road surrounded by stone statues on either side, was the official entrance to the Ming tombs. There were 6 kinds of animals that lined the road; two pairs of animals were placed for each kind. One pair rested while the other stood guard, to ensure one was always awake. Past the animals, four pairs of ministers and generals sit on either side of the road. They mark the final approach to the entrance of the tomb.
We took a break from our sightseeing to enjoy a scrumptious meal at a local restaurant. We ate in the lap of luxury, sitting in a private room (with its own bathroom) and rotating a lazy susan to pass food around the table. We tried many tidbits of various dishes ranging from spicy fish soups to the traditional steamed rice. After eating, we went to the Nanjing Museum.
The Nanjing Museum impressed everyone. The traditional architecture in the main building perfectly complemented the ancient Chinese artifacts, while the change to more modern architecture showcased the exciting temporary and art exhibits. The museum itself was far too large to see in just a couple of hours, but we were able to select a few special exhibits to focus on. The digital exhibit was a favorite because of the many activities and projected images which made old pieces of art turn into motion pictures.
We then headed to the wall of Nanjing. The gigantic wall, originally used to repel invaders, towered over the municipal government buildings next to it. We were astonished at the sheer height and width of the wall; it reminded us of the magnitude of the Great Wall. However, unlike the Great Wall, the wall of Nanjing formed a loop and enclosed an area of land. Therefore, gates were essential for daily life. The gates were monstrous yet gorgeous and are still used today; we had to use one to get to the Purple Mountain earlier that same day.
The students finished up the day at Pizza Hut, but it wasn’t the same type of Pizza Hut one would see in America. This Pizza Hut was a sit-down restaurant that had a menu full of pizzas, pastas, hot dishes, sides, drinks, and desserts. The pizza itself seemed to be a hybrid of deep dish and pan-style pizzas, but was tasty nonetheless. It was a perfect end to a long day, and everyone was happy to crawl into their beds.