Birthday cake in Nanjing

China is not only huge, and it not only has huge cities that we’ve heard of like Beijing and Shanghai, but it also has dozens of big cities that most of us have not heard of with populations in the millions.  Nanjing is one of those cities.  The capital of Jiangsu Province, Nanjing used to be the capital of China. It also happens to be the sister city of St. Louis; the two cities were the first pair of sister cities between the US and China!  I knew I loved Nanjing for a reason.  It is a very modern city with a great subway system, many universities, and great shopping and restaurants.  It is also surrounded by natural beauty and holds many cultural sites since it was once the national capital.

Nanjing lit up at night along the canal by the Fuzi Temple

Nanjing lit up at night along the canal by the Fuzi Temple

We stayed in a super cute hostel (nearly every hostel in China is super cute and clean and fun) right by the Fuzi Temple, a Confucian temple, so we went there at night to see it all lit up.  We’ve learned very quickly that the Chinese love to light things up, including religious sites.  I took a billion pictures at Fuzi, but I had to restrict myself for this blog post.

The Fuzi Temple was filled with light-up displays, which I think were made of silk

The Fuzi Temple was filled with light-up displays, which I think were made of silk

We’ve found that lots of the cultural sites in China are extremely expensive, so we’ve really had to pick and choose what is important to us.  In Nanjing, I really wanted to visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, which taught us all about the Japanese massacre of the citizens of Nanjing in 1937.  Within about three months, 300,000 people were slaughtered and about 80,000 women and girls were raped by Japanese soldiers.  I remembered learning about this in high school, so it was really amazing to be in the city where it happened, and to think about how recent it was that the city was in shambles.  The museum was huge and covered basically everything about the (uncomfortable) relationship between China and Japan.  We learned a lot about China’s status during WWII, which is not something we are taught about in the US.  The coverage of the massacre was extremely moving, and I could see that some of the Chinese visitors were very emotional while viewing it.

part of the memorial complex at the Nanjing Massacre Museum

part of the memorial complex at the Nanjing Massacre Museum

The other important site we chose in Nanjing was the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, mostly because I was hoping to see another embalmed Asian leader.  Unfortunately, he is held in a tomb and we could not see his body.  But the site and the surroundings were beautiful, and we counted every single one of the 392 steps up to his tomb.  Sun Yat-sen is considered the father of modern China, but the mausoleum didn’t teach us much more than that, because it assumes all the visitors are Chinese and already know why he is important.  But basically he was the first political leader after the dynasties were done ruling China.  He died in Beijing in 1925 but wanted to be buried in Nanjing to have a more simple tomb.  Too bad!

climbing the 392 steps up to Dr. Sun's tomb

climbing the 392 steps up to Dr. Sun's tomb

And one more thing happened in Nanjing…my birthday!  It was really cool having my birthday in China, mostly because I’m on vacation, and that’s the best way to spend a birthday.  But also I got to help myself to the greatest baked goods in the world.  I never knew this about China, but there are bakeries on every corner and everything they make is delectable. I picked out a chocolate sponge cake with creme swirl and green tea cookies and had a mini party with…Jon.  There really are so few people who understand English in China, I couldn’t create a birthday party for myself without knowing a bit more Manderin.  So to make up for the lack of a party, I went out and bought myself a pink coat for $8.  We had a yummy Chinese dinner at a place with an English menu (a rarity) and hung out in the hostel despite the showing of “Twilight” in the background.

my 24th birthday: cheap Chinese beer, sponge cake, a new pink coat, and the satisfaction of fulfilling my 23-year-old resolution to take more risks (aka go on this trip)

my 24th birthday: cheap Chinese beer, sponge cake, a new pink coat, and the satisfaction of fulfilling my 23-year-old resolution to take more risks (aka go on this trip)

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