1. October 2018. A few of my Chinese friends back in Rui’an said I was crazy for going to Nanjing during Golden Week. But I was under no illusion as to what I was letting myself in for. I’d already done several National Holiday trips within China and I knew the crowds would be insane, especially at the main tourist hotspots I was so keen to check out as a first time visitor. So it was with gritted teeth that I approached Nanjing’s famed Presidential Palace, an immensely historical complex with a backstory that blends both imperial and modern China. At the ticket office things were hectic right enough, but… amazingly… I was able to dive in, grab my ticket and head through through the entrance turnstiles in about ten minutes! Golden Week crowds? Piece a cake!
2. October 2018. The Presidential Palace, also known as The China Modern History Museum, began life as a luxury mansion for Prince Han of The Ming Dynasty. Come here at any other time of the year than Golden Week and it’s easy to get a real sense of ancient China as you stroll through a series of gorgeous courtyards, squares and gardens. This feeling was less tangible for me however, what with kids running under my feet and selfie-taking teens as far as the eye could see. Later on, in the 1600s, the palace was bizarrely used as a fabric-manufacturing warehouse before Taiping revolutionaries seized control and made it the capital of their so-called Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
3. October 2018. During those Taiping days the most revered building here was this impressive Golden Dragon Hall. It was designed by Taiping big cheese King Hong Xiuquan, who also oversaw its construction. The interior is painted with lions, tigers, elephants and dragons, while its centerpiece is a formidable golden throne used by the king to discuss state affairs with his advisors. As is the way, Chinese tourists were impatiently pushing, jostling and bickering for choice photos.
4. October 2018. This was my favorite Presidential Palace spot: the pretty green pond with a covered walkway, wooden benches and the contrasting backdrop of Nanjing’s modern skyline. The masses had quickly tired me out, so it was nice to just drop down here for a bit and zone out while people scurried about me like ants. Loading up some more history on my phone, I learned that after the days of the Taiping the palace regularly changed hands before Dr. Sun Yat-sen set up his offices here in 1912 after being sworn in as China’s first provisional republic president.
5. October 2018. There are tributes to Sun Yat-sen all around the complex, including grand paintings in the old offices, a waxwork installation in the museum and this elegant sculpture that attracts a steady flow of people paying their respects. The palace was eventually turned into a museum in the 1980s and today draws visitors from all over the nation. It’s open daily from 08:30-17:00, with tickets priced at 40RMB (4.40/€5/$5.80).
Like this? Check out more My 5s from around Nanjing.
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