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Nanjing City Wall of Ming Dynasty

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Nanjing City Wall of Ming Dynasty, Nanjing attractions

Introduction

The Ming Dynasty is a period of ruling in China that followed the defeat of the Yuan Dynasty, which during that time China was ruled by the Mongols. It was during the Ming Dynasty that a navy and an army were first constructed of one million troops, a size that surpassed all others in the 15th century. It was also during this period when the reconstruction of the Grand Canal and the Great Wall of China occurred and the construction of the Forbidden City, which then housed the emperors of imperial China in Beijing from the 15th century to 1911, materialized. The Ming Dynasty was remembered as the last dynasty reigned by Han Chinese and had contained and sustained an estimated 160 to 200 million people in population during the latter years of its rule.

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Nanjing City Wall is one of the key historical and cultural remain of Ming dynasty under state protection in Nanjing city. The city wall was desighed by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang after he founded the Ming Dynasty and established Nanjing as the capital 600 years ago. Nanjing City Wall, also named as the Ming Great Wall of Nanjing, is a masterpiece of China's ancient architecture. The reason why Zhu Yuanzhang build the great wall is to consolidate his sovereignty and keep out invaders, Zhu Yuanzhang adopted the suggestions of advisor Zhu Sheng to build a higher city wall to collet grains and to postphone the coronation. 

With an priginal perimeter of about 35km, the Nanjing City Wall is 14-21 meters high and 14 meters wide, it took 22 years to complete and used 200,000 laborers to move 7 million cubic meter of earth. The Nanjing City Wall, is the world's longest circular city wall, completed in 1386.

Construction

The Nanjing City Wall was built between 1366 and 1386 to protect the founding capital of the Ming Dynasty. Some 200,000 workers labored to construct the fortification, moving 9 million cubic yards of earth in the process. The first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, ordered 118 counties of 20 states in five provinces to make bricks, according to the Travel China Guide website. Each brick weighs about 6 pounds.

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Because the bricks are marked with Chinese characters recording their origin, the official in charge of their making, and the individual maker, those of the Nanjing City Wall constitute the biggest set of historical construction records. Up to 350 million bricks were used to build the wall. The joints were poured with a strong, coagulated mix of lime, rice water, and tung oil. Its height ranges between 45 and 65 feet, and its walls are about 45 feet wide. Atop the walls are 13,616 crenelations for defensive measures.

The world's longest circular city wall encloses the 21 square miles of inner Nanjing City. Nanjing proper, the capital of Jiangsu province, covers 2,500 square miles, and the Greater Nanjing Metropolitan area covers 23,000 square miles, with a population of 30 million in the 2016 census. The Nanjing City Wall originally had a perimeter of about 22 miles; 13 miles of the wall still stand today.

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What to See on Ming Great Wall

Stop 1: Zhonghua Gate
Located immediately to the north of Qinhuai River, Zhonghua Gate, or the Gate of China, is one of the best preserved and most intricate barbicans in the world, according to Sun.

The gate is used as a grand entrance to any tour of the City Wall. It once served as the southern gate of ancient Nanjing, a 15,168-square-meter fortification that contained four layers of defenses, as well as three grand castles, the ruins of which are connected to each other by a wide ring of wall. After paying an entry fee, visitors can view former garrisons, an exhibition about the history and variety of bricks used to build the City Wall.

Visitors can also climb up a platform with an impressive view over the Qinhuai River to the south and buzzing downtown to the north. It's possible to rent a bike and ride atop the wall to Dongshui Guan, a Ming watergate 2.7 kilometers to the northeast.

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Stop 2: Dongshui Guan
Dongshui Guan, or the East Water Checkpoint, is a 10-minute bike ride along the wall or a 30-minute walk from Zhonghua Gate. The restored compound is the only watergate on the Ming City Wall, according to Sun. In recent years, the gate and its surrounding area have been redeveloped into a 41,500-square-meter public park.

"If you stand on the highest point of the park, you can have a bird's-eye-view over the whole watergate," says Sun. "The busy modern metropolis in the background and the grand checkpoint in the foreground form an interesting contrast." Dongshui Guan Ruins Park, Dongshuiguantou Road, Qinhuai District

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Stop 3: Wu Gate
It's worth sparing an hour to walk northward from Dongshui Guan to Wu Gate. The route passes through some of the widest ancient streets in Nanjing. Yudao Jie street was the exclusive carriageway of Ming emperors -- you'll find Wu Gate located at its terminus. The stone gate heralds the entrance of the Ming Imperial Palace, which is believed to have served as the blueprint for the Forbidden City in Beijing.

The majority of the defunct palace has been transformed into a green space open to the public. The park itself contains a restored gate, an original inner moat, ruins of the Hall of Praying to Heaven and a stonewall with intricate Ming-era carvings of fabled animals. This is a good place for people watching. Nanjing is at its most lively here, with sword-dance performers, chess players and tai chi students filling up every corner.

Strangely, the doorway of Wu Gate has become a meeting point for the local saxophone community. On weekend afternoons, you can find dozens of saxophone enthusiasts blasting out mini-concerts in the shadow of imperial power.

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Stop 4: Jiefang Gate
From Wumen, it's another hour's walk to reach Jie Fang, or Liberation Gate, a newly built fortress added to the wall in 1952. Scenery en route includes the crowded commercial thoroughfare Zhujiang Road (good for electronics shopping), a stretch of Beijing Dong Road (home to the Nanjing City Government) and the imposing Cock-crowing Temple.

According to Sun, the gate was added to the wall to facilitate air raid evacuations and traffic between the two sides of the wall. Although it's newly built, Sun considers the gate a part of the "longest, tallest and best preserved stretch of the Ming Wall," which zigzags from Xuanwu Gate to Taiping Gate. The wall terminates next to the Cock-crowing Temple, giving visitors a stunning view toward gilded halls and Buddhist pagodas.

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Stop 5: Taicheng
Next up is Taicheng, a five-minute walk on top of the wall from Jiefang Gate. The view from here is breathtaking. On one side lies Xuanwu Lake, a 3.68-square-kilometer refuge in the heart of the city that's home to best park in Nanjing. Here, locals share their collective passion for speed-walking along the shore. On the other side of Taicheng, decorative Cock-crow Temple and sleek skyscraper Zifeng Tower can be framed within the same photo.

The 450-meter-tall Zifeng is the second tallest completed building in mainland China and home to InterContinental Nanjing. The Nanjing History Museum of the Ming City Wall is located inside the Taicheng wall section -- it's worth a detour for those keen to see more bricks.

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Stop 6: Heping Gate
To find the most complete gate along the Ming City Wall, you'll need to walk along Xuanwu Lake til you reach the northernmost point of the old Nanjing City, which forms a straight north-south axis with Zhonghua Gate on the southern boundary.

Located just to the north of Xuanwu Lake, the fortress, also known as Shence Gate, was a guarded military zone inaccessible to the public for more than seven decades, according to Sun.

As a result, Heping or Peace Gate is the only gate of 13 along the Ming City Wall to have a watchtower that predates 1912, the founding of the Republic of China. The gate was repurposed as a public park in 2006. The 1,600-meter stretch of wall between Xuanwu Gate and Shence Gate is a key section of the government's plan to open more of the wall to the public this year.

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Travel Guide 

Admission Fee: Free
Time for Visit: 1 hour
Recommended Time for Visit: 2 hours

How to get to Nanjing City Wall

Bus route: take bus No. 2, 16, 49, 63, 202, 302, 701, 703, 706, d58 and get off Zhonghua castle, then you can reach to Nanjing City Wall

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