Nanjing whets foreign worker's appetite for taste of Chinese history

Updated: Dec 31, 2020 Print
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World travel has become a super passion of mine over the past decade. I relish learning about cultures in other nations, about their people, their food, their history.

Due to the pandemic, any plans for intercontinental excursions have been scuttled, but fortunately, because China has done such a good job of controlling the coronavirus, domestic travel is still possible. And since China is such a large nation with such a variety of subcultures, it remains a very interesting country to explore.

I went to Tianjin for my birthday in June, and I also spent a few days in Qingdao, Shandong province, in August. I was determined to take one last little vacation before this year ended, and I chose to go to Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province and a former capital of China.

Though many of the city's sites are closer to its center, I booked a hotel in Tangshan, an area known for its hot springs about 40 kilometers from downtown. My hotel room had a feature that I was dying to try-a giant spa bath tub. I couldn't wait to unwind in that!

I arranged to meet with two of my colleagues who work in the city, and they took me to the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. Our visit took place just two days after the national memorial day honoring the 300,000 people who were killed by the Japanese, who seized the city on Dec 13, 1937.

The hall is a fantastic tribute to those who were slain as well as the survivors, and I learned a great deal as I shuffled around the exhibits at the solemn venue. Some of the images of the victims are quite graphic, which surprised me, but I understood how the creators felt it was so important for visitors to get a full grasp of the atrocities.

My new friends later treated me to lunch, where we enjoyed some local foods. I tried yaxue fensi tang (duck blood soup), a famous dish in Jiangsu, for the first time. It was a tasty dish, but the congealed duck blood was a bit odd in terms of its texture. Still, I understand why it's so popular.

Later, we went to the Nanjing Presidential Palace. Originally created as a royal residence during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it later served as the offices for the Chinese presidents and staff back when the city was the nation's capital. I enjoyed wandering around the buildings, which house the offices of legendary leaders Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, as well as the beautiful gardens outside.

My friends also told me that visiting the Confucius Temple at night would be a good idea, so I went one evening by myself. They were right, it was really gorgeous! Colorful lights surround the area, which is right by the Qinhuai River. In fact, I strongly considered taking a river cruise, but I was too cheap to pay the 80 yuan ($12) for the ticket. I did peruse the temple, however, where I was treated to an illustrated history of Confucius' life.

I also enjoyed the artifacts from Confucius schools. Most of them were from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and included books that students used to learn English back in the 1800s. There was even a school uniform from the Ming Dynasty on display.

After I finished traipsing around the city, I found time to relax in that aforementioned spa tub in my hotel room in the evenings. It was a perfect way to cap off each night I was there.

Nanjing is indeed a lovely city. I'm glad I can cross it off my list of places to visit around China.

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