Nanjing / Avoiding the tiger summer

Nanjing’s main tourist attraction is Zhongshan Mountain National Park, located on a hillside to the city’s east and containing an array of historic buildings and sites.  Like all tourist attractions in China, the weekend brought thousands of people.  It was also a stinking hot day (a ‘tiger summer’ as the locals call particularly late summer heat) so we appreciated the protective cover of the forest.

But, the people and the heat also made for a slow day and we decided to bypass one of the main attractions, the mausoleum of Dr Sun Yat-sen, a political leader of the twentieth century. But when you see the number of unshaded stairs one has to take to get there, it was a wise choice.  Again, something to go back for…

Sticking to the main shady attractions, we visited the Linggu Temple, first constructed in 515, then relocated brick by brick to its current location, where it was destroyed then rebuilt.  It has fewer steps than the mausoleum but plenty of people still.

The most impressive structure here is the Wuliang or Beamless Hall, a beamless hall (obviously).  Constructed in 1381, the hall (22 metres high and 54 metres wide) contains not a single piece of timber nor a single nail, just bricks and bricks.  Given the scarcity of older masonry buildings in China, it must have been a real feat of construction for its time.

It was originally enshrined to Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Life, whose Chinese name also happens to be Wuliang – I’m sure pronounced with different tones, and thus a different meaning, to ‘beamless’.  Later, it became the memorial hall to soldiers who died in the War of the Northern Expedition.  It was also pleasantly cool inside.

The same soldiers are also enshrined at the Linggu Pagoda, which lies further into the park.  About 100 years old and standing about 60 metres tall, it nonetheless a striking building.  The pathway to the pagoda is via a lengthy axis, which is broken halfway by a green space and curved wall, forcing you to divert either left or right.

The pathways converge again, reforming the axis and giving a direct line of access to the pagoda.  Again, too many stairs and too many people meant that we stayed on the ground, enjoying the building in the relative comfort of the shade.



4 Responses to Nanjing / Avoiding the tiger summer

  1. luKe says:

    Thanks for the arm chair ride into this part of China, Doctor.

    With this kind of heritage to draw upon it is little wonder that the Chinese psyche has a sense of celestial destiny.

    • No worries … I know you have been hoping for some more meaningful views into the country and culture!
      It’s great that these ancient sites are still frequented by squillions of people too.

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