Cruising Through Nanjing



On Friday morning ten Davidson students set out on a whirlwind tour of Nanjing.  The trip was organized by The School of Social Development and Public Policy of Fudan University, the school that is sponsoring the Davidson College group and a few others during their study in Shanghai.  We were told to meet at the main gate of Fudan University at 7am to catch the bus at 7:30.  Thanks to a concerned call from Chai Lu at 6:50 wondering where we were, after both of our alarms failed to go off Friday morning, Ali and I managed to make it to the bus stop by 7:27!  Despite racing to get to the bus on time, the busses were late and we did not leave campus until well past 8.  Once all 62 of us were in the buses and on the road, however, we were told that we had a 3 and a half hour bus ride to Nanjing, so just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.


Upon reaching Nanjing we had lunch, yet another banquet style set-up with about ten preordered dishes and a lazy-Susan in the middle.  While all the Davidson kids complain endlessly about the banquet style meals we have to take part in, I was actually thankful to Fuji for making us endure them as we knew what most of the food was and the proper etiquette for operating a lazy-Susan.  Our other SSDPP classmates, however, were much more hesitant of the Chinese food and did not fully comprehend the notion that you had to make sure that no one else was trying to serve themselves when you decided to spin the lazy-Susan.  We did manage to avoid any spills, but there were some “exciting” moments in the midst.


Our first real stop on the Nanjing trip was the XuanWu Lake Park.  As we reached the gate to the park and gathered for the mandatory group picture we were swarmed by a group of Chinese tourists all dressed in black suits, most wielding professional looking cameras, who all believed that the large group of foreign tourists was the “real” attraction.  Our two groups then got in to what I can only describe as a “photo war,” with their group furiously taking pictures of us and our side taking pictures of them taking pictures of us.  The whole thing was simultaneously mildly unsettling and hilariously funny.  After we finally assembled for our official group photo we were released into the park to wander and explore.  In the park we again ran into Chinese people who unabashedly stared at us.  We had all dealt with similar situations before, however, in previous encounters when the people realized we had caught them staring they looked away, but here they just kept staring.  We were all joking about it and Ali finally said, “They can stare all they want but I am going to acknowledge them, wave and say hi and hopefully they will respond.”  Others even joked that they were going to start charging 5元 for a picture.  The park itself was pretty with a nice lake and pleasant architecture, but the thick mix of fog and smog really put a damper on its beauty.

From the park we went to the Nanjing Massacre Museum.  For those unaware of the history of the Nanjing Massacre, it is in loose terms the Chinese version of the Holocaust.   When the Japanese invaded China they took Nanjing as a stronghold and slaughtered 300,000 people in a matter of months.  The Japanese troops pillaged, raped, and murdered the people of Nanjing, this horrific event is often referred to as the Rape of Nanjing.  Needles to say, this was a tough museum to walk through, but a good thing to experience and acknowledge none the less.  Unfortunately we only had an hour in the museum and had to move quickly; but I am glad that we had the chance to think about that facet of Nanjing history and, therefore, how Nanjing fits more into the overall history of China.  It also shed more light on the complicated relationship between China and Japan.  It was definitely a place I would like to visit again and explore more.

“Ah, close your eyes, rest in peace!  You innocent soul!  You poor boy” – A monk fleeing on his way

“They rob and rape, they set fire and bury people alive… They even kill my three-month-old little grandson”

“Frigidity and horror have frozen this crying baby!  Poor thing not knowing mum has been killed, blood, milk and tears have frozen, never melting”

From the museum we went to yet another banquet style dinner and then on to a river cruise on the QinHuai River.  There was not really that much to see from the boat but we had a great time on the cruise.  Chai Lu, Benito, DJ, and I were all sitting together and we played word games and joked around the entire ride.  It was a very relaxing way to end a long day.  The next morning we went to the Presidential Palace and Sun-Yat Sen’s mausoleum.  The palace was not all that exciting but the mausoleum was definitely more than I was expecting.  Sun-Yat Sen requested to be buried in the side of a mountain, so his followers obliged.  They built a mausoleum in the side of the mountain atop 329 steps to represent the 329 million people in China at the time of his death.  The views from both the bottom and the top of the steps were impressive.  Most of our group of 62 made the trek up the steps and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the gate at the base of the mountain and the surrounding mountains.

Overall it was a good trip.  We did not spend that much time at each place, but we covered many important Nanjing landmarks in less then 36 hours.  For a city that was once the capital of China, I feel that we did it justice.  If we can do this much stuff in two days I wonder how many new things we will be able to explore and discover during our week long trip to Beijing.  The China adventure continues.