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Nestled at the base of Zijin Shan, Xuanwu Lake Park was once an imperial garden. Now it is Nanjing's backyard. Nanjngers come here to walk, to exercise, to fish, or watch their children play. During Spring Festival and other major festivals the park is filled with the pop and light of firecrackers. The open spaces are never without people, but the spacious grounds never feel full. There are paddle boats to rent along the lake, and islands in the center of the water to visit. Along the north shore of the lake is the Nanjing Amusement Park and towards Zhongshan Gate is the Sun Palace Water Park.
This is the Drum Tower (gu lou) that the district is named after. Originally built in 1382, the drum in the tower signaled the changing of the guard by marking the watch (a two hour period of time). Climbing to the top reveals the singular drum. At one time this was the tallest point in Nanjing. Now, it is a bit dwarfed by skyscrapers, but still has a worthwhile view. Within the building, which was rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty, there are old photographs of Nanjing and other interesting artifacts.
Few universities can claim a legacy going back to 258 CE. At its establishment as the central higher learning institution of the kingdom, the curriculum was based mostly on Confucian teachings and methods of governance. Graduates of the school went on to serve as officials to the court. With such a long legacy, Nanjing University (colloquially called Nan Da - short for its Chinese name Nanjing Daxue) had many firsts for China, including the first academic art institute and the first co-educational facilities. The campus near Gulou along Hankou Road is a park-like spread of old and new buildings. With few cars allowed on campus, a visit makes for pleasant walking, especially in the spring as the cherries and plums bloom. There are a few museums on campus worth visiting, including the Art and Archeology Museum of Nanjing University, the Geoscience Museum and the History of Nanjing University Museum. The field and track facilities are open to the public.
Visitors who have been to Beijing will be familiar with the stone animals that stand guard along the path to the tomb of Zhu Yuanzang. The original inspiration lies here in Zijin Shan at the tomb of the Ming Dynasty's first emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. The tomb covers nearly 1214 hectacres (3000 acres) and includes several notable structures, arranged to reflect the Ursa Major constellation, including the Archway for Dismounting, the Stele of Great Merits and the extravagant Walkway of Stone Animals. At the very back of the grounds lies Baocheng (Precious Hall) where the remains of the emperor are interred.
This massive compound was originally the estate of a noble family during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The white walls and gray flying eaves of the create an elaborate symmetry that makes this one of the most photographed spots in Nanjing. Each courtyard area of the compound is dedicated to a different time period or different aspect of Chinese life and includes deliciously colorful exhibits of Kunqu and Peking opera costumes, the finery of a traditional wedding and much more. Puppet shows are performed every day at 10:30a and 2:30p.
This Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) era garden is one of the most famous Chinese gardens in South China. The elaborate walkways, bridges and halls preserve an opulence distinct to Ming- and Qing-era China. Peaceful pools center in unusual rockeries to be viewed from distinct pavilions. This garden's highlights vary with the seasons, so it is a year-round attraction. However in the fall the unusually bright yellows and oranges of the foliage will stand out in memory and photographs.
One of the best known landmarks in Nanjing, the Confucius Temple dates back to 1034 and the Song Dynasty. Venerating the great philosopher Confucius, whose teachings are no doubt the most influential in China, the temple became even more significant as Nanjing became the examination site for Confucian scholars taking the Imperial civil service exam at the nearby Examination Hall. As a symbolic center of Nanjing, the temple has also been the target of aggression as well as veneration and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, the latest after 1937, following the Japanese invasion. The current buildings are designed to fit the Ming-era architecture of the nearby district. Relics and artwork related to the great sage's life, including one of the largest Confucius statue in the world, plus figures of his eight disciples, are all on display.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen was the public face of the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911. The Zhongshan Ling- Dr. Sun Yat Sen is a reverential state monument on Zijin Shan that combines modern architecture with Ming Era imperial elements, including a many-tiered flight of steps, traditional decorative huabiao columns, and a blue-roofed symbolic sacrificial hall. An Italian marble rendering of Dr. Sun lays across his sarcophagus within the hall, the ceiling of which is painted with the Kuomingtang flag. The Three Principles of the People, democracy, nationalism and people's livelihood, the revolutionary movement's slogan are inscribed across the door.
The castle-like Zhonghua Men Fortress (Zhonghua Men Chengbao) is singular among the Ming-era structures in Nanjing. As the main southern gate among the Ming City Walls, Zhonghua Gate has pragmatic military functions in every elaborate detail, from the mock wooden doors that hide stone gates to the three courtyards within designed to trap invaders. Zhonghua Gate remains a strategic spot in Nanjing, if not militarily, then for travelers - it lies in a roundabout that is a stone's throw from one of the busiest transit hubs in the city.