Nanjing / The other great wall

 Nanjing is one of China’s most significant cities, having been the capital of China during six dynasties (Nanjing literally meaning “Southern Capital”) as well as the early part of the twentieth century, and as a modern economic and cultural centre (second only to Shanghai within China’s east).  Goodness, I feel like I am writing the introduction to one of my reports at work…

Perhaps the secret of Nanjing’s historic success is its ancient city wall.  Built about 600 years ago, the wall was created to consolidate the city’s position as the national seat of power, as well as the sovereignty of the sitting Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang.  It took 21 years, 200,000 labourers and 7 million cubic metres of earth to build the wall, which at over 10 metres high and 30 kilometres long, is the longest urban wall in the world.  While this map does not really illustrate the location and scale of the structure, it is a nice old map and I like nice old maps.


Even today, most of the city is encompassed within what remains of the wall.  Its looms high over the city, a constant reminder of what people needed to do in the old days to keep their city safe. 

The 13 gates still act as beautiful entry points into the city (albeit via the motor car not the horse).


The longevity of the wall relies as much on its physical strength as its symbolic power.  The materials are a mixture of granite and limestone, packed with smaller rocks and gravel.  The joints were set with a lime mix that contains oil and cooked glutinous rice, supposedly an effective coagulant.  Oil and sticky rice … yum!  I guess the size and strength of the wall may have foiled more recent attempts to demolish it for the sake of “progress”.


Section of the top of the wall are publicly accessible.  Unfortunately, we chose a point where access is pretty limited … at other location, you can walk along large sections of the wall, with sweeping views across the city.  Always good to have something to go back for …


The older city is riddled with waterways and canals.  The area around the Qinhuai River houses many historic relics, as well as the contemporary retail heart of the city.


And with water, there are lots of boats … from the traditional punt … 

… to the faux old-style tourist craft …

… to the modern day junk (geddit?)


9 Responses to Nanjing / The other great wall

  1. vanessa says:

    read the book the rape of nanking (iris chang) few years back…was always curious as to how it looks today… somehow seems so peaceful… guess that’s a good contrast to the bloodshed..

  2. luKe says:

    The parabolic arches on the faux tourist boats are quite beautiful. I imagine that it would be very pleasant sipping good tea beneath such a shape, in the middle of a lake, during rainfall.

  3. graham says:

    i’m so inspired i’m going to try sticky rice on my next project

    • I wonder how the spec would read … boil over high heat for 20 minutes, remove from heat and allow to congeal, resist temptation to eat …
      We need an Australian Standard for this, methinks.

  4. Chris says:

    Happy New Year.
    I thought Chang-Mai had great walls but Nanjing is far more impressive. Possibly they had to keep out bigger (or more determined) bad guys. The water looks cleaner than – but as opaque as – the Lane Cove River. Still good for floating about upon.

    • Yes, but I definitely would NOT swim in it … My workfriend’s dog once jumped in a creek in Shanghai. The toxic exposure made him sick for a week, but he was lucky it didn’t kill him.

  5. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

  6. Pingback: Figuring out the last year … « That Look Crayzy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: