Treaty of Nanking

Civilisation on show

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am


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Few areas are better suited to support civilisation than the lower Yangtze River, and of all the great cities that arose there, Nanjing has always been the ruler's favourite.

For centuries kings and emperors made their home in Nanjing and their achievements are scattered across the city: The Great Nanjing City Wall and the Ming dynasty tombs in the hills to the east; the Drum Tower; and the Presidential Palace.

Nanjing felt the repercussions each time one of these rulers fell from power. Invading armies and rebel pretenders to the imperial throne sacked and razed Nanjing several times, most recently during the horrific Nanking Massacre at the hands of the Japanese.

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall takes the horror of those few weeks during the Sino-Japanese war and puts them into an historical context and tries to make sense of the carnage. The message of the memorial reflects the attitude of a city accustomed to winds of change that can quickly become gales.

During the 19th century, the city was the base of the Taiping Rebels, fanatical Christian warriors led by a priest-king that nearly overthrew the Qing empire.

The Taiping Kingdom History Museum is a great resource on those times - the museum is near the Confucius Temple, in the home of a former Ming dynasty general and offers knowledgeable English-speaking guides.

After the fall of the Qing, Nanjing was the Nationalist capital until liberation in 1949. The presidential palace was the seat of Nationalist power and where Dr Sun Yat-sen took the oath of provisional president.

The palace is open to the public as is Sun's mausoleum in the Purple Mountains to the east.

A cable car can take you to the top of the mountain where you can watch the Yangtze River as it courses past Nanjing.