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Nanjing / Nanking

China History Map - NankingNanking and Peking are titles, not names. Strictly, the words mean "Southern Capital," "Northern Capital." Their names are Kiangning and Shun-t'ien, though the nomenclature of Peking is a study in itself. The name of the capital city of China was spelled as Nanking. That spelling has since been changed to Nanjing, using the Pinyin romanization of the Chinese characters.

The story of Nanking begins with that great conqueror and reformer, the Great Ch'in. On his famous tour to inspect the dominions he had annexed, he pitched his camp on the north of the Great River. Rising early the next morning and pushing aside the portiere at his tent door, he saw above the mountain across the water a rosy cloud, and in the cloud the outline of an Emperor. He knew the omen: there was a dragon in that mountain, and a dragon's business is to produce Emperors, therefore this dragon must be interviewed, and some arrangement must be made with him. And in due time the place was located where the dragon abode. Thus about 212 BC, there was built a camp, Kienk'ang, " Joy Established," which remained for centuries guarding the treasure and ensuring that no Emperor should be born hence to disturb the ruler de facto.

To this picturesque tradition may be added another, recorded on the spot by the Vermillion Pencil of the Emperor K'ang Hsi, whose authority for events some two or three thousand years before his time is unimpeachable: "This place . . . was by that ancient book, 'The Tribute of Yii,' included in the region of Yangchow. Under Ch'in Shih Huang Ti it was made the seat of a district and a prefecture, at which time it was called Mo-ling. Under the Han dynasty, Sun Ch'iian2 called it Kien Yeh."

When the Second Empire broke up with the Hans, a kingdom called Wu was formed in the lower basin of the Yangtze, and its capital was at one time located at Soochow; at another period it must have been near here some say it was on this very site. When the Tatars had conquered the original China, the basin of the Yellow River, while the Chinese held the Yangtze basin, the Eastern Tsin established their capital here, say from 317 AD.

When the Tatars were expelled and the Sui dynasty founded the Third Empire, they shifted their headquerters away to the danger point of the north. The veracious K'ang Hsi informs us that under their successors, the T'angs, "for the first time a wall was built, and the city was named Kinling." This may be true about this precise site, but it is hardly accurate to ignore that within a short distance the capital had lain. When the kingdom of Wu revived, this district became again its headquarters from 907 onwards, but with the Mongol conquest of 1280 it subsided again into insignificance.

Hung Wu led the Sons of Han to victory and drove out the Mongol. He rose from poverty to lead a great army which pushed the Mongols out of China in the 14th century. After victory, he established his capital at Nanjing. Under the new Ming dynasty this was appropriately made the capital of the whole Empire. A vast wall was laid out and everything was planned on a gigantic scale. The City Wall of Nanjing was designed by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang after founding the Ming Dynasty and establishing Nanjing as the capital six centuries ago. In order to consolidate his sovereignty and protect the city from invaders, he adopted the suggestions of his advisor Zhu Sheng to build a higher city wall. The construction took 21 years and involved 200,000 workers, who together moved 7 million cubic meters of dirt and materials.

Little, however, was really accomplished except a palace, and the choice of the treasure-spot hallowed anew by Pao's staff, and his temple, as the Tomb of the Mings. Yingtian (now Nanjing) was the Ming capital from 1368 to 1421, whereupon the seat of government moved to Bianjing (now Kaifeng) between 1368 and 1421, finally coming to rest in Jingshi (now Beijing) in 1421, where it remained until the Ming were overthrown in 1644. The Purple Forbidden City in Beijing is the largest and most well preserved imperial residence in China today. Under Ming Emperor Yongle, construction began in 1406. It took 14 years to build the Forbidden City. The first ruler who actually lived here was Ming Emperor Zhudi. For five centuries thereafter, it continued to be the residence of 23 successive emperors until 1911 when Qing Emperor Puyi was forced to abdicate the throne.

The Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty, resting at the foot of Purple Mountain, marks the final resting place of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang and Empress Ma. The Ming Xiaoling is the tomb of the founder of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang. Something of a megalomaniac, he wanted a tomb complex grand enough to reflect his glory as the founder of a dynasty. Using feng-shui geomancy, his sages found the ideal location at the base of the Zijin Mountain in Nanjing. The tomb complex, one of the largest in China, stretches over several dozen acres. It is made up of memorial temples, pavilions, grand gateways, and long avenues lined with stone statues, all laid out in the shape of the dipper constellation. The complex lies amidst gardens and the woods of the mountain, a calm natural setting which heightens the calm, historic atmosphere of the ancient statues and buildings.

Within thirty-five years, one year for each mile of wall, the exigencies of defence against the terrors of the north compelled the court to remove to Peking. Nanking then remained as the Chinese sentimental capital. Here no foreigner had ever reigned; here the Sons of Han had rallied again and again and have driven out the invader. One such, the Manchu Emperor K'ang Hsi, tells what he found on his own visit. "This place [was] hitherto called Kinling [Golden Tomb]. . . . In the course of a tour of inspection we halted for a time at Kiangning [official name, Tranquilliser of the Great River, or Tranquil Spot near the River] with the intention of climbing the Bell Mountain to offer a libation at the tomb of Hung Wu. Passing through the ancient palaces, we saw them overgrown by brambles. These imposing buildings had fallen into ruins; only broken walls met the view."

In the mid-19th Century the richest provinces of China had been ruthlessly ravaged by rebels, who had proved incapable of establishing any settled form of government. Their leader was a native of Kwangsi, named Hung Siu-tsuen; he had imbibed some notions of Christianity from an American missionary at Canton, and had established on this basis a new sect of his own. In 1851 there broke out an open rebellion under Hung, who proclaimed himself "Emperor of the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace" (Tai Ping)) and from this time onwards they were spoken of by foreigners as "Taipings." Advancing north ward, they laid siege to more than one important provincial city without success; but, in January, 1853, Wuchang, Hanyang, and Hankow fell into their hands. Moving down the Yangtze, they finally establishing themselves in March at Nanking, the ancient capital of China.

Here they declared the formation of a new state and Nanking its Heavenly Capital. But their victory ended in 1864 as government forces, aided by European armies finally crushed the rebellion. By May, 1864, Nanking was almost the only place left to the Taipings. With the capture of this city in July of that year by the imperial General Tseng Kuotsuan the rebellion came to an end.

By the end of the 19th Century, Nanking was not what it was. Gone was its famous porcelain tower, carefully unbuilt by the T'ai-p'ings because of its geomantic influence. Gone were its manufuactures, once so famous that "Nankeen" was a trademark as well known as Sheffield and Brummagem. Where palaces gleamed, there the beautiful shalo tree threw out its bunches of seven leaves, or in early summer bloomed with flowering spikes, or in autumn yielded its chestnuts, "good for heart-ache." Where the Imperial tomb ought to command reverence, the ginseng grew for medicine. Houses had yielded to groves of quince and apricot and cherry. Within walls thirty miles in circuit, only some 140,000 people dwelled. It was a city of departed glory.

It last served as the capital in the Republic of China (1911-1949), when this role was once again ceded to Beijing. On 21 December 1911, thirty Republican delegates met at Nanking, representing thirteen provinces: Kiangsu, Kiangsi, Hupeh, Hunan, Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Anhui, Fukien, Chekiang, Shensi, Shansi, Honan, and Kueichow. A Provisional Constitution, provided that a provisional President of the Republic should be immediately appointed, and that each province should be represented by three members. Eight days later Dr. Sun Yat-sen was elected President. The establishment of a republic at Nanking caused intense irritation to Yuan Shih-kai. From the moment that he accepted office as Prime Minister it became apparent that Yuan Shih-kai aimed at making Peking the place where the future form of government should be decided. There was a definite cleavage between North and South, and at one time the situation became so strained that suggestions were made in more than one responsible quarter in favor of a division of the country. For a time there was a complete deadlock. Two governments virtually ruled the country. The Republican Administration at Nanking governed the south, Yuan Shihkai was, to all intents and purposes, dictator of the north.

On 14 February 1912 an imposing ceremony took place at Nanking. Sun Yat-sen proceeded to the Ming Tombs and, offering sacrifices, declared to the spirits of the departed ancestors that the Manchu domination had been overthrown and a Republic established.

The scenes on this occasion were vividly described for the North China Daily News by Lim Boon-keng, a Chinese writer. "The monoliths that have stood silent sentinels for so many centuries seemed to acquire a new significance. As the troops and the President's party marched past these monuments and the figures of ancient warriors, one felt what feelings of joy, enthusiasm, and triumph must have filled the assembled people..... The heavy clouds passed away, and the sun shone brightly upon the President as he rode up to the great portals of the historic tombs. True to the profession he had made to the nation, he also exemplified, by proceeding to perform a national ceremony of the utmost historic importance, the great virtues of our sage emperors of whom Confucius taught and of whose wisdom our national poets and historians have lavished their praises in successive ages."

The Nanking Assembly supported the views of Sun Yatsen that Yuan Shih-kai should accept the Provisional Presidency. On 15 February 1912 Dr. Sun Yat-sen and the Provisional Cabinet resigned and Yuan Shih-kai was unanimously elected, by the votes of seventeen provinces, Provisional President of the Republic.

The Sun Yat-sens Mausoleum was built in 1926 in honor of Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925). Sun led the rebellion against the Qing government, which resulted in the 1911 revolution that put an end to the feudal system in China. Situated at the foot of the south gate to Purple Mountain, it has become a must-see destination for visitors to Nanjing. Nanjing was long popularized by Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Gazing out onto the Nanjing horizon, the Father of modern China used to say it was difficult to find another city like it. He described it as wonderful, with mountains, lakes and plains all around.

On July 7, 1937, at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing, Japanese Imperial Forces (JIF) continued its invasion of China by launching an all-out-war against ChinaThe Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). From Beijing the JIF moved south attacking Shanghai. Despite intense Chinese resistance that lasted for over three months during the Battle of Shanghai (August 13, 1937 November 26, 1937), Japanese forces captured Shanghai as well as the Chinese capital Nanking in December 1937.

About 100,000 Japanese soldiers entered Nanking on December 13, 1937, encountering little resistance since most of the Chinese soldiers had evacuated the city. Nanking had a population of about one million, but approximately half of the residents had fl ed the city before the Japanese entered. In Nanking, in six weeks, the Japanese Imperial Army slaughtered approximately 350,000 Chinese prisoners of war and civilians. Women, men, and young girls were raped, and children were likewise brutally treated. The Japanese soldiers policy, the Three Alls: Kill all! Burn All! Loot all! effectively destroyed much of Nanking. The Rape of Nanking, as it became known, is considered one of the worst atrocities in recent history.

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Page last modified: 02-07-2012 18:29:04 ZULU