In the far east of Asia, lies a country steeped in rich history, monarchic dynasties, traditional culture and revolutionary architecture. China is both the worlds’ most populated country and one of the worlds’ safeguarded heritage sites. Reshaped and transformed by every ruler and Emperor that held power throughout its extensive and honoured history, China has become a place of historical beauty.
Looking further into eastern China in the Jiangsu province, lies Nanjing, Jiangsu’s capital. One of the country’s most important cities, it has been China’s capital during 6 dynasties throughout history. With its clear lakes, gleaming sky scrapers and ancient preserved architecture Nanjing is one of the four great ancient capitals of China.
Nanjing has experienced demolition and renovation throughout the centuries, however one important piece of history remains, the Ming city wall of Nanjing. Its creator was the first emperor and founder of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. He established Nanjing as China’s capital in his first reigning year in 1368. A new city was constructed to the east of old Nanjing, this was to be Emperor Yuanzhang’s new capital palace and would become the blueprint to engineering Beijing’s forbidden city many years later.
This left Yuanzhang with the dilemma of military defense. His grand new palace was now located outside old Nanjing’s city walls. Thus a new city wall was to be built. It took 21 years for 200,000 labourers to assemble, with 118 counties instructed to create and supply the bricks needed for such a gargantuan build.
Finally finished in 1386, Emperor Yuanzhang had created an architectural feat of military defense, observation and engineering. Providing Emperor Yuanzhang’s palace with the nickname the Forbidden City as in 1386 it was sheltered behind the four walls of Nanjing; the outer, inner, imperial and palace city walls.
600 years later and the Ming dynasty city wall still stands. This August sees the entire city wall of Nanjing open to the public for the first time. As many portions of the wall were closed off as military zones, the complete accessibility is a great reward for many locals and tourists. With walking and bicycle tours now available, the Nanjing wall can be appreciated in all its magnificence.
When it was completed, the city wall had 18 gates positioned along its’ length, only 2 still stand today, the Zhonghua gate and Heping gate. Known as the gate of China and the Peace gate respectively, these beautiful entrance ways are filled with the style and tradition of ancient Chinese culture. Along with the; Dongshui Guan, Wu gate, Jiefang gate and Taicheng they have become main focal points and entryways to the hidden Chinese historical treasure.
What is preserved today is a long standing relic of the Ming dynasty’s Inner city wall and holds within it all the history and culture Nanjing survived through in the last 600 years. The bricks themselves supply much of the ancient Chinese culture. Each brick was inscribed by; scholars, officials, artisans and folk people demonstrating the calligraphic style and multiculturalism of the Ming dynasty many centuries ago.
The city wall of Nanjing is a standing representation of Chinese history, preserving an ancient dynasty that was considered by some as the greatest era of orderly government and social stability in China‘s history. The Nanjing city wall offers panoramic views from many points throughout the capital; deep forests, ancient temples, the Xuanwu Lake and the industrious city of Nanjing itself.
China is a country full of; architectural feats, impressive engineering and fabled history. The city wall of Nanjing holds the title of longest city wall in China and most under-rated historical site. Its history is inscribed on the very bricks in which it was made. This nation understands the importance of honouring the past and preserving tradition, making this monument an unforgettable piece of history.
How important is honouring history, in today’s world?