Saturday, November 12, 2011


instead of travelling with everyone else to beijing, i decided instead to see a new city. chose nanjing - the older capital of the country during the taiping revolution and the nationalist government. i had three days there, and as i am prone to doing, i decided to walk everywhere- cutting transects of sorts. i was living in the northern edge of the city- right near the railway station overlooking the warehouses and malls on the road that led to the docks on the yangtze.

day 1- red; day 2- yellow; day 3- purple

day 1 was the west to east walk. the first time i saw the massive grey stone wall of the city. then past the lake that feels like it is within the city walls but it actually part of the moat that surrounds the city. three islands in the lake house temples, and shrines reached by causeways. across the lake, on the other side, i climbed the city wall and looked out over the city. it is nowhere as slick as shanghai or scrubbed clean like hangzhou or suzhou. the frayed edges still show. the purple mountain and its observatory are reached by a cable car that flies over leaves turning red in autumn. from the top the city views are spectacular. then i began the long descent through the forest tracing paths towards the sun yat sen mausoleum- a massive monument approached by a ceremonial axis- pretty much the diagram for all institutions of power around the world - and somehow more so in china. the ming tomb in the same area also follows a similar diagram but the spaces along the axis are far more refined- a journey of shifting eyelevels, geometries and scales. the park has a ceremonial walk lined with elephants, camels, lions and unicorns. the walk back took me back to the wall and through it into the inner city past the museum- which was undergoing some massive restructuring.

day 2 was north to south. a rather long walk from the north tip to the southern tip of the main city past the bus station and the malls to the north, and through the throbbing commercial heart with the high rises and the shopping centres, to the palace which is now a museum of the taiping revolution. later further south is the main gate to the city where three layers of stone protect courtyards with bonsai gardens and even a film shoot that was on. there are slums directly outside the city walls waiting for redevelopment. if you walk past them and over the railway line and below the flyover you get to the martyrs memorial park complete with the internationale carved in stone and a communist museum with a red room and all in mandarin. on the way back, a detour took me through a new old housing area along the canal directly to the Confucius temple with its knick knack shops and mcdonalds.

day 3 was a north west to south east transect and a trip to the japanese war memorial in the south west. along the railway line are large complexes selling building materials. the yuejiang tower is splendid in the morning mist at the north western edge overlooking the whole city and the yangtze. further west are the docks closed off from the city with markets and warehouses. the walk back follows the path of sun yat sen and has a few of the older nationalist buildings. a monument is along the way. hunan road is alive with shopping. later another temple on the eastern side. the japanese war memorial is stark black against a suburban landscape.