The Political Side of Nanjing

Living in Nanjing means living in a city of massive importance to China’s political history from thousands of years ago until today. First and foremost, Nanjing is one of China’s “Four Great Ancient Capitals” alongside Beijing, Luoyang, and Xian. In fact, Nanjing actually means “southern capital” in Mandarin. The reason behind Nanjing’s name and its designation as one of China’s great ancient capitals becomes clear after a quick glance at China’s history: it was the capital of all the six dynasties from AD 220 to 589, then the capital of the Southern Tang dynasty (937-976), Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and more recently, Nanjing was the capital of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-1864) during the Taiping Rebellion and the seat of power of the Nationalist government of the Republic of China from 1928-1945. When Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of the Nationalist Kuomintang party took Nanjing in 1927, he declared it to be the capital. This marked the beginning of the Nanjing Decade, or the Golden Decade, wherein China was reunified and experienced a relatively stable period of governance until the Japanese invasion in 1937. Tragically, Nanjing was also the site of the infamous Nanjing Massacre, which led to the deaths of 300,000 Chinese people at the hands of Japanese invaders. This event continues to be a contributor of tension between China and Japan today. From the year 220 until today, Nanjing’s political importance has been proved time and time again.

Today, Nanjing is the capital of the Jiangsu province and enjoys the status of being the second largest city in the East China region. Jiangsu is one of the wealthiest and most important provinces in all of China, being one of the leading provinces in finance, education, technology, and tourism. It is the most densely populated province (the fifth most populated province in total), it has the second highest GDP after Guangdong, but it has the highest GDP per capita of any other Chinese province. To put this into scale, the GDP of Jiangsu alone is greater than that of Mexico or Indonesia! Nanjing is one of 15 sub-provincial cities, meaning it enjoys jurisdictional and economic autonomy rivalling that of a province. Moreover, Nanjing is also ranked seventh in the evaluation of "Cities with Strongest Comprehensive Strength", solidifying its importance in the Chinese political landscape.

Nanjing’s political history is not just an abstract thing, but something palpable that you can witness while walking down the city’s streets and parks. There are many sights worth seeing related to Nanjing’s extensive political history; for the more ancient era, you can visit the tomb of Sun Quan, an emperor from the Three Kingdoms period who died in AD 252, which is located on Purple Mountain. There’s also the ruins of the Ming dynasty imperial palace that was built in 1366 and the Chaotian Palace (now the Nanjing Municipal Museum), which was also built during the Ming era, both of which make for very interesting visits. In the Fuzimiao area, you can visit the Confucius Temple that, for many years, acted as the imperial examination centre during multiple dynasties. The Nanjing Museum, which offers free entry, contains eleven exhibitions with displays from 830-1700, containing many Ming-era artifacts. There are also many sights related to Nanjing’s more recent political history, such as the Presidential Palace, the headquarters of past emperors and the Kuomintang government. It contains the offices of important officials from Chinese history, including Chiang Kai-Shek and Sun Yat-sen - important pieces of history on the Republic of China. On Purple Mountain, there is the tomb of Sun Yat-sen, a beautiful complex in a beautiful area. Moreover, there is also Meihuashan, where Wang Jingwei (president of the collaborationist government during the Japanese occupation) is buried and where the Ming Tomb and Plum Blossom Hill are located. In terms of socialist history, Nanjing is also a great city for political sightseeing. Beyond the propaganda strewn across most streets, you can visit the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, which was the first major and modern project to be built entirely by the Chinese during the communist era. In the Yuhuatai scenic area, there is a cemetery and memorial for the revolutionary martyrs who gave their lives to the communist cause. Since Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu, there are a number of government buildings scattered around the city, such as the Nanjing People’s Congress, Jiangsu Provincial Government building, and the Nanjing Municipal Government building, all of which are adorned with red slogans and hammer and sickles. If you are interested in Chinese politics and history, Nanjing is the city for you!

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