Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, 3-4 hours’ drive or 90 minute bullet-train ride from Shanghai in the northwest.
The name Nanjing means “South Capital” in comparison with “Northern Capital” of Beijing, while some foreigners know it as “Nanking”. Served as the capital of ten Chinese political regimes for 1,800 years, Nanjing is a rarity in China where history, urbanization and nature can be captured simultaneously in one photograph. Yet it remains relatively unexplored by international travellers.
The history has left abundant Chinese historical and cultural relics in Nanjing, which include the World Heritage-listed Ming Tomb, the Ming Dynasty City Wall, the bright lights and river scenery of Confucius Temple, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace of the Republic of China, the willowed banks of Xuanwu Lake, Jinghai Temple, and many other places of historical interest. Parts of the original city walls and city gates are still intact, a feature which sets Nanjing apart from most ancient Chinese cities.
Life in Nanjing is much slower and more relaxed than in Beijing or Shanghai. It is common to see senior citizens playing chess in the sun. Parks are found all around the city. Most are free and well-maintained. Locals love strolling and picnicking in the green at leisure.
Nanjingers are chatty and friendly. Pedestrians are willing and helpful in giving directions, though most don’t speak English. English is better understood in high-end hotels and restaurants or international hostels.
The local food is an offshoot of Huaiyang Cuisine, a regional cuisine from southern Jiangsu Province stressing the use of fresh ingredients and fine presentation. Dishes are salty and a bit spicy. Nanjingers cook excellent duck dishes. A signature course is duck soaked in brine. The city’s iconic snack is duck blood soup with fried tofu and vermicelli, which is very popular all over the country.
Nanjing can be very hot in summer. The spring and autumn are the more favorable time to visit Nanjing and autumn is especially scenic when the maple leaves turn bright red.