1. October 2018. A number of Nanjing’s most historical sites can be found within the mountainous grounds of Zhongshan National Park. Having already conquered the three hundred and ninety two step glory of Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, Jaylin and I set off on a half an hour walk through the park forest to check out another of China’s most famous tombs. This is a particularly prestigious Nanjing site as it contains the tomb of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Ming emperor and indeed the only one to be laid to rest outside Beijing.
2. October 2018. Buoyed by how manageable the crowds had been at Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, we pressed on with the flowing masses towards Xiaoling Tomb’s historical treasures. But unlike the wide expanse of our morning walk, this narrow, 618-meter spirit path proved very hard work and we quickly got swallowed up in the multitudes.
3. October 2018. The Sacrificial Hall (Xiaoling Hall) is one of the Ming Tomb’s main buildings. It contains the memorial tablets of Zhu Yuanzhang, along with his empress and concubines. It’s a small building and in all honesty it was an absolute nightmare to appreciate that day. Kids climbed all over the statues, families shouted at each other nonstop and people bumped into us from all sides. It was virtually impossible to stop for a moment to take anything in.
4. October 2018. I’m sure the tomb gardens, pagodas and courtyards are really beautiful, but I wasn’t able to get any sense of that as we fought the crowds that day. In fact, it was so disgustingly busy and chaotic that Jaylin and I bypassed most of the complex in order to reach Soul Tower (Ming Lou), the compound’s focal point. Housed in the large China Square, this is where Zhu Yuanzhang is buried, beneath the tower in an unexcavated vault.
5. October 2018. The queue to get into the tower was horrific and it wasn’t moving. As we stood watching the line grow (at a rate of about 5-10 people every ten seconds), it suddenly hit me how bloody exhausted I was. “Uh… do you really have to go inside?” Jaylin asked, with searching eyes. I could only conclude that no, I did not. Knowing only too well that getting out would be another almighty battle, we both dropped to the ground and rested for a bit up against the wall. The noise… the jostling… a discarded plastic bottle landing at my feet… this experience had been anything but fun. In the end it took Jaylin and I about an hour and a half to get out of the tomb, then the park, onto the subway and back to our hotel. Mentally and physically drained, we both melted into a blissful three-hour sleep, a slumber so perfectly deep and dark I felt a bit like an entombed emperor myself.
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