Nanjing City Wall

Nanjing, China

What was once built as a protection measure by the first Ming emperor, has now become an icon of the ingenuity and craftsmanship of that period. The Nanjing wall is relatively new as compared to other city walls (6 centuries old) but the method of construction had vastly changed by then, making this unique and strong enough to weather much more turbulence than the rest.

Approach to the City Wall is made simple with subway line1 that goes to Xuanwumen or Zhonghuanmen or subway line3 and 4 going to Jimingsi (a further 5-minute walk here will take you right up to the wall). Multiple public buses will take you there as well. There are 3 charged sections on the wall i.e. Fugui to Lanqi (RMB10), Shence to Taiping gate (RMB30 including museum) and East Water Pass to Jiqing Gate (RMB50 including the defensive building above Zhonghua gate). The former two sections are open from 08:30 to 17:00 and the last section has timing from 08:30 to 20:00. Besides these, there are other 3 sections, which are free to visit and open all the time. Cycle cabs are available on certain parts of the wall at a minimal charge. A good time to go would be during the Lantern Festival (Jan 15 of the lunar year) as there is much activities and fun organized by the authorities.

Since the city of Nanjing was the capital before Beijing, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang made sure to fortify the city with impregnable defense system. The wall, along with Nanjing’s own geography, helped solve this problem. Over 21 years and 200,000 workers saw the city’s wall encompass the Lion Hill, with a mountain on its back and the river serving as a natural barrier along its border (called a moat). To this day, it is a formidable site to behold.

Originally there were 13 gates to the city but not all have survived. Of those that did make it, Jubao Gate, later renamed the Gate of China, located towards the south of the city, has the most complex structure. There are two bridges, one inside and the other outside the city, with grand pathways that in olden days were used to transport wartime supplies.

The City Wall Museum, on the Shence to Taiping Gate, is worth a quick look as it is included in the cost of entry. So too, is the Zhonghua Barbican on the route between East Water Pass to Jiqing Gate. The views from the city wall of the river and the city inside the walls will really make your trip.

One important thing to note of the Nanjing City Wall is that the bricks used in its construction have been ‘stamped’ with the inscription of the makers. These range from elaborate fine script to mere symbols and are simply delightful to historians who have found a treasure trove of calligraphy and fonts that they can identify to different regions of Ming era China. They leave quite an impression on tourists as well.