November 15-21??, 1999
In going from Beijing to Hong Kong we were determined to stop at Nanjing, the capital of China in the 20s and 30s. Before we planned to go there we didn't know much more about it, except that The Yangzi River (or Chang Jiang, as the Chinese call it; this means "Long River") passes through the southern area and connects Nanjing to Suzhou and Shanghai. Checking our DVD-based encylopedia we learned that Nanjing is now the capital of Jiangsu Province and that Jiangsu is about the size of England with the population of Britain and Ireland: it has 71 million people living in 102,000 square kilometers. Suzhou is also in Jiangsu but Shanghai is in a "federal district" of its own, reporting directly to the national government. In Jiangsu we saw only Nanjing and Suzhou; that's like visiting Britain and only seeing Birmingham and Oxford. There's lots left there for us to explore.
We arrived in Nanjing thinking we'd spend four nights; we ended up staying eight. Part of the reason was because Jan had a cold and spent a day in the hotel resting. A bigger part was because we had a nice but cheap hotel and there are plenty of things to see in Nanjing. We got the hotel in a very unusual way for us: on the train a woman was going up and down the aisles touting hotels. She had a big book with photos. We let her talk us into this one; we would probably never have found it otherwise since it is not the very center.
Nanjing is underrated and well worth the time we spent. Unfortunately the communists have hidden any remnants of the capitol building, etc. that may have been used by their arch-rivals, the KMT, Chang Kaishek's group. The center city, where these must have been, is now a dud, although we found a nice Japanese restaurant at which we ate twice.
To the south of the center there is a giant monument to the Martyrs of the Communist Revolution which is extremely impressive even if we don't agree with the politics of it. For example, nothing is said about the martyrs created by the Cultural Revolution or by the Tiananmen events. Only KMT opponents are worthy of mention.
To the east, on Purple mountain are the tombs of the first Ming Emperor (~1350) and of Sun Yat Sen, both very impressive, and several temples, all in a spacious park. We very much enjoyed walking on the remaining part of the old city wall and of seeing and being in the impressive and brand new Nanjing museum. What treasures they have there! It reminded us both of the National Museum in Taipei, Taiwan; although it is not on such a grand scale, the exhibits in Nanjing are definitely Taipei's equal in quality.
On the southwest is the memorial to the victims of the Japanese Rape of Nanjing; although we understood little of the labeling, the photos spoke volumes and were very moving.
P.S. In March, 2000 we went back to Nanjing as part of a work trip for ZTE. On the weekend we visited several more museums and found that in our four month absence the KMT Presidential Palace had been opened to the public. By today's scale it is very modest but it is very interesting.