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Nanjing City Wall Travel Guide


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nanjing city wall
nanjing city wall
nanjing city wall
nanjing city wall

Nanjing city wall is a highlighted part of Nanjing attractions and a tentative site of UNESCO world cultural heritage. The existed city wall was built in Ming Dynasty, so it is famously named Ming City Wall. The whole duration of construction is 21 years. And the construction does not follow the traditional layout design for the capital but built in a unique and innovative way. It maximally extends for over 60 kilometers. The Ming city wall of Nanjing is not only the largest city wall in China but also the No.1 in the world. Anciently, it played a role as an ancient military defense installation, and its greatness shows both in its functionality for defense and the construction technology for city wall. Someone takes it as another historic miracle next to Qin Dynasty’s Great Wall.

Currently, Nanjing city wall is also the key cultural site under the national protection. Nanjing was the capital of early Ming Dynasty since Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang selected it. In 1366, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang accepted the suggestion of Zhu Sheng(朱升) to build the high walls. This project lasted for 21 years, and finally completed in 1386. The whole project is quite magnificent. The city wall base has a width of 14 meters and 14 – 21 meters high. There are 13,616 crenels, 200 shacks and 13 city gates. Among 13 gates, Jubao Gate, Sanshan Gate and Tongji Gate are the grandest. The materials to build the city wall generally are the huge boulder strips. In the recent years, the Gate of Zhonghua and the Taicheng Building and so on have been restored, and a themed museum named Nanjing City Wall Museum has been also established. It is a unique humanistic landscape in Nanjing at present.

The Gate Building Complexes of Nanjing City Wall

The city wall of Nanjing is worldwide famous for its large size, great quality and grandness. Matteo Ricci spoke highly of Nanjing as an unsurpassable city in the world, and it is most from its great city wall, and the related building complexes. There are in total 13 city gates. On the east, there is Chaoyang Gate. On the south, there are Jubao Gate (Zhonghua Gate), Tongji Gate and Zhengyang Gate. On the west, there are Sanshan Gate, Shicheng Gate, Qingliang Gate, Dinghuai Gate and Yifeng Gate. On the north, there are Taiping Gate, Shence Gate, Jinchuan Gate and Zhongfu Gate. Among 13 city gates, there are four well preserved gates, and they are Jubao Gate, Shicheng Gate, Shence Gate and Qingliang Gate. Jubao Gate, today widely called Zhonghua Gate with the largest town outside the city gate.

Similar to today’s Beijing city (actually Nanjing city construction is absolutely copied by designers of Beijing old city), Nanjing city anciently consisted of for parts – the Forbidden City, the imperial city, the capital city and the outside city, and each circle of the city is protected by a city wall.

The Forbidden City(宫城) is the heart of the capital and used to be located in east side of the capital, and it is surrounded by the moat. In 1366, Liu Bowen, a mysterious Taoist and leader of think bank of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, designed it in accordance with the traditional fengshui theory. The original of the Forbidden City was Yanque Lake. After a redesign and filling, a big imperial palace complex appeared, and this palace complex is 2.5 kilometers long from south to north, and 2 kilometers wide from east to west. And it is comprised of two parts, the administrative zone (three grand halls) and the residential zone (six palaces). There are several gates on the walls like Meridian Gate, Zuoye Gate, Youye Gate, Donghua Gate, Xihua Gate and Xuanwu Gate.

The Imperial City (皇城) is the nearest city wall to escort the Forbidden City, the whole forbidden city and the imperial city together with the related architecture are named Huanggong(皇宫, the joint name of Forbidden City and The Imperial City). In layout, the Imperial City has five gates comprised of Hongwu Gate, Chengtian Gate, Auspicious Gate, Meridian Gate and Fengtian Gate. Behind five gates, there are Fengtian Hall, Huaga Hall and Jinshen Hall. Behind the halls, there are Qianqing Palace and Kunning Palace, two gates opposite to them are respectively Rijing Gate and Yuehua Gate to symbolize the Emperor and Empress are the sun and the moon on the sky. On the city wall, there are Hongwu Gate, Changan Left Gate, Changan Right Gate, Dongan Gate, Xian Gate and Beian Gate.

The Capital City(京城) with a total length of the city wall of 33.676 kilometers. This city design is a breakthrough of the traditional capital city construction. This is the main part of whole city, and reflects the basic philosophy of architect in dealing with the relationship between the human and heaven, and giving prominence to justifying the power of emperors.

The outside city wall (外郭) is for making up and strengthening the capital defense. It was built in 1390. The whole length is up to 180 li and comprised of 16 main gates. The northernmost gate is Guanyin Gate, the easternmost gate is Qilin Gate and the southernmost gate is Jiagang Gate.

The Construction Supervised by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang

In the era of cold steel, city wall was undoubtedly the most important national defense project. The firmness of the wall or not directly expresses the authority of Emperors, and closely connects with the safety of the whole nation. Therefore, over the past dynasties, the highest policymakers always took the quality of the city wall in top priority, and the construction of Ming city wall was directly supervised by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. It is not only the longest city wall in the world, but the world’s firmest city wall so far. Over the past 600 years, it suffered a lot like the cannon attacks by Japanese invaders, and still keeps its greatness.

The Inscribed Names and Characters on the City Bricks

nanjing city wall
The Inscribed Words on Bricks

This is China’s first lifelong real-name responsibility for guaranteeing the project quality. If each part undermines the whole project, or each part cannot meet the whole quality demand, the supplier or maker will be punished or penalized. The whole construction of Ming City Wall just strictly follows this principle. Based on an estimate, there are hundreds of millions of bricks needed, and each city brick has a relatively regular size, generally 40-50 centimeters long, 20 centimeters wide and 10-12 centimeters high. These bricks are from all over the nation, and the soil property of the brick is also diverse, and majority of the bricks remain the inscriptions, a character, a sign, a mark or a sentence. This is the most valuable part of City Wall of Ming Dynasty, and also a highlighted part of its cultural and historic heritage. Where are so many bricks from? Who were the makers? Some historians spent lots of time researching and getting a relatively accurate data. The city bricks are from the midstream and downstream regions including today’s Jiangsu province, Jiangxi province, Anhui province, Hubei province and Hunan province.

To ensure the brick quality for the city wall construction, the local officials and organs including the troops and soldiers, as well as the civilians were all required to provide the bricks, and remain their names on their supplied bricks. So it is convenient to check the quality of bricks and find out the suppliers who provided the unqualified bricks. This is historically called mechanism of responsibility. The most serious castigation is death penalty, and under such a big threat, there is nobody dared to make some unqualified bricks with the cost of their life.

Generally, the inscriptive styles on the bricks consist of two types – the well-educated way and the illiterate way. This is a great supplement to Chinese calligraphy. It is the firsthand historical data to research folk calligraphy, seal art, and the evolution of Chinese surnames.

 The Highlighted Attractions of Nanjing

Nanjing Museum Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum Qinhuai River Scenic Area Nanjing Brocade Museum
Nanjing Museum Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum Qinhuai River Scenic Area Nanjing Brocade Museum
Nanjing Qixia Temple Nanjing Jiming Temple Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall Presidential Palace
Nanjing Qixia Temple Nanjing Jiming Temple Nanjing Massacre Memorial Presidential Palace

 The Travel Guide of Nanjing

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Nanjing Travel Nanjing Tours Nanjing Attractions Nanjing Travel Tips

Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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