Scenic spots, coffee, history: Get them all in Nanjing

By Bi Mengying in Nanjing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/17 19:24:29

An aerial shot of Xuanwu Lake Park on September 20 Photo: IC

Many people travel to Nanjing, the capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, for its major tourist attractions such as the Nanjing Museum, the Presidential Palace and the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. During my recent trip to the city, I tried to avoid the crowds by exploring the quieter spots of the city.

After a quick breakfast, I set out early in the morning. The well-developed subway system could basically get me anywhere I wanted to in the city. What made the subway-ride experience even better was how convenient it was to purchase a ticket. All I needed was the app for Alipay, the widely used mobile payment platform in China. Simply by typing "Nanjing subway" in the search box, I was able to claim a virtual subway card with a QR code that was ready for use.              

Xuanwu Lake Park

With a history that stretches back nearly 2,500 years, Nanjing was the ancient capital of six Chinese dynasties and was also a major hub for the development of Buddhism in China. Line 3 took me straight to my first stop - Jiming Temple. The temple, which literally means "rooster crowing" in Chinese, is one of the oldest temples in the city. It was first built during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280), and rebuilt several times over the following centuries. 

Du Mu, a reputed Tang Dynasty  (618-907) poet , wrote in his poem Spring of the Southern River Shore, "Four hundred eighty splendid temples still remain, of Southern Dynasty in the mist and rain," to describe the booming development of Buddhism and the changes over different dynasties. Jiming Temple was considered to be the best-known among the temples. A quiet morning tour around the temple will help you get a sip of the rises and falls of different dynasties throughout the long history. 

Departing from Jiming Temple, after a few minutes of walk, I arrived at Xuanwu Lake Park. The area was used for hunting and military training by royal families in the past. Currently, the park covers an area of 5.02 square kilometers, while the lake takes up 3.78 square kilometers of this area. Various types of ancient structures such as temples, pagodas, pavilions and gardens are dotted across the park. 

During my visit, blooming lotus flowers were swaying on the water, drawing visitors to pose for photos. While younger residents were on their morning jogs, older residents were strolling around the lake. The former ancient royal park was now benefiting the city's people after thousands years. 

Close to the park, there was a section of the City Wall of Nanjing, which has been inscribed to the tentative list of World Heritage by UNESCO in 2012. Built in the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to protect the city, the wall was originally more than 35 kilometers long, but now only 25.09 kilometers of the wall remains well-preserved. 

In 1927, Sun Yat-sen's successor, Chiang Kai-shek, headquartered the Kuomintang (KMT) government in Nanjing and planned to tear down all the City Wall in order to rebuild the city. Artist circles showed strong opposition and Chinese painting master Xu Beihong published several articles condemning the plan, so the City Wall was temporarily saved.   

During the 1950s and 1960s, preservation of the City Wall faced severe challenges from left wing groups, as they intended to get rid of anything related to feudal China. Collaborating with people from different fields as well as some residents in Nanjing, Zhu Xie, then deputy director of the Jiangsu Province Cultural Bureau, fought to protect the ancient heritage of the city. 

Looking up from the foot of the City Wall and thinking about all the ups and downs it had experienced was a very touching moment for me.   

Coffee World Champion

Approaching noon, when the heat was starting to rise, I felt it was time for some coffee. But not from just any coffee house, I had to try UNiUNi, the coffee house where the famous Du Jianing works. The Beijing-born barista made a name for herself after she won the 2019 World Brewers Cup (WBrC) Finals on April 14. She was the first barista from the Chinese mainland to claim the championship. 

"Welcome my dear customers. This is a picture of my coffee shop. In this beautiful place, we present the world's most exotic blends to coffee lovers in China," said Du Jianing as she stood on stage at the WBrC Finals. 

"I have to visit this place when I visit Nanjing," I told myself back then. 

Lucky for me, the coffee shop was only a 15-minute-walk away from Jiming Temple. The coffee shop uses white to set the tone. A feeling of calm came over me as soon as I stepped in the door, like I had just escaped from the steamy, hot weather outside. 

A female barista greeted me in a very soft voice. Sadly, it was not Du. I later learned that she was on a business trip in Shenzhen. 

There were various types of beans displayed on the counter. By each jar, a small label noted the flavors and important details of the coffee they made. Customers were free to pick which beans they wanted the barista to brew. I randomly tried one jar on my left. It had me at first whiff. They were the most amazing coffee beans I had ever smelled in my life with a strong fruity and sweet scent. I immediately told the barista that this was what I wanted without any thought of trying the others.  

"These are the same beans that Du used when she competed for the finals. It's relatively pricey, about 320 yuan ($45) per brew," the barista told me kindly. 

The beans were called "Founders." It had flavors of red apricot with white grape punch, followed by a delightful cocoa and champagne taste and a slight but delicate violet floral, noted the label. 

Due to my limited budget, I convinced myself that it would be better for me to save something to look forward to for my next trip to Nanjing. After learning about my preference for more acrid flavors, the barista recommended "Perci," It was within my price range and contained rich flavors of tropical fruits, such as mango and guava. 

As I sipped my coffee, something Du said shortly after she won the championship came to my mind.

"I hope that I can make coffee to change some people's stereotypical ideas about coffee, and let them know, the taste of coffee is not just bitterness," she said.

Residence of John D. Rabe 

The former residence of John D. Rabe, who saved the lives of thousands of Chinese during World War II, is situated at the Gulou campus of Nanjing University, one of the oldest and prestigious higher education institutions in China.   

Rabe worked as a Siemens' business representative in Nanjing from 1932 to 1938. The three-story house he called home in the city's downtown area served as a refugee shelter for more than 600 refugees in 1937 when the Japanese army occupied the city and slaughtered more than 300,000 people in what later became known as the Nanjing Massacre.    

Historical materials and photos, including copies of Rabe's diary, in which he recorded the atrocities committed by the Japanese troops, are on display. 

"It is in this country where I spent my best time of youth, where my children and grandchildren were born, and where my career was accomplished," goes one passage on display. The passage provides some insight into why - despite the German embassy having advised Rabe to leave Nanjing many times during the war - he made the decision to stay behind in China, which he considered his second home. 

Inside Rabe's residence, visitors were quiet and the entire place was filled with a solemnn atmosphere, as visitors explored the city's scars. 

Meanwhile, outside on the sun-kissed streets, people carried on with their lives in this weather-worn city.
Newspaper headline: Southern capital


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