I had just arrived in Nanjing and was told that a must see while I was here was the Confucius Temple. I got to the Sanshan Street metro station and must admit that I was a little bit lost but after consulting my map and walking in circles for a while, I arrived at what seemed to be the right spot. I spotted a beautiful gate down a little side street. Not exactly how it was described but I wasn’t fazed. I put my map away, bought my ticket and walked inside. I was immediately amazed by how beautiful it was, a little pathway with grass on either side, marble statues with gold engravings lined the walls and a green canopy of leaves overhead shading me from the heat. I couldn’t hear the horns or the engines anymore, it didn’t even feel like I was still in the city. Scattered throughout the temple were amazing gardens with huge bonsai trees and ponds with fish and birds. Inside the buildings there were beautiful tapestries, ancient gowns and weapons, although most of the descriptions were in Chinese, which I cannot read, I could still appreciate the artwork and craftsmanship of the pieces.
It was around the 30 minute mark, towards the end of the temple, that I started to realise that it was absolutely nothing like how anyone had described it to me, and that, maybe, I was in the wrong place.
I left the temple and, after a quick bite to eat, I took out my map and set off once again to find the Confucius Temple and, after getting lost a few more times (I’m not very good at reading maps), I found it! It was hectic, even more so, I think, because the place I was before was so peaceful. There were people everywhere, shouting, selling, screaming, smoking, staring. There was something interesting everywhere you looked and even though I just ate, I had to eat again, everything looked and smelled so good.
Turns out the first ‘temple’ I went to was the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History museum and I would highly recommend it, maybe not for the history itself, because, unless you can read Chinese, the information was a bit sparse, but go for the artwork, the architecture and the peace and quiet.
I really felt like I got to see both sides of China in one afternoon, one side was the beautiful art, tranquil spaces and rich history, the other side was the bustling streets with people everywhere, eating strange food or selling things you’ve never heard of, both were awesome in their own ways. It was a really surreal but ultimately fun experience. I guess it all just goes to show how great Nanjing is, that as you make your way through the city, you will inevitably stumble across something else that you will love.
By Myles Quinn
If you’re planning on coming to China, you will obviously want to see the Great Wall, check out our blog about Camping on the Great Wall.
Or if you’re interested in becoming part of the EF Nanjing team click here.