30 Apr 2019
They call Nanjing the ‘City of Emperors’ – a place magic of ancient Chinese dynasties is still manifest. Outside Zhongshan Gate, rising from the heart of the old capital, Zijin Shan or the ‘Purple’ Mountain stands with a steep incline and tapers upwards to peaks draped in strange mists that gain a purple hue at dawn and dusk. Once a key landmark for the city’s defence, the forested slopes now hide temples, mausoleums and observatories. It is the final resting place of age-old emperors and the storied heroes of ten dynasties, as well as being an important ecological monument and hallowed destination for holy pilgrimages.
Get in Touch with Nature
Scenic nature trails lead up the slopes of Nanjing’s Purple Mountain, offering endless opportunities to explore, sightsee and uncover stone carvings, sculptures and burial sites. The thickly forested slopes extend almost 450 metres above the city beneath and hide both natural wonders and manmade marvels, from the gorgeous still waters of Black Dragon Pool to the sculptured White Cloud Pavilion. For the peckish, there are several places to stop for healthy bites while you hike, like the vegetarian restaurant housed in the Linggu temple complex.
Bring comfortable shoes for longer hikes or rent wheels from the bike-sharers Ofo or Mobike and wind uphill with your lungs full of fresh mountain air, pedalling through the rich ecology, including some 600 different plant species. In Spring, the vibrant plum blossoms blanket the slopes of the mountain, while Autumn brings a rich blaze of leaf colour.
Learn a Little Chinese History
The Purple Mountain is an enduring trove of Chinese relics, covered with sites of cultural significance. Perhaps the most popular is the grand Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, designed by architect Lu Yanzhi and nestled at the foot of the mountain’s secondary peak, with a huge stone stairway that leads to the main hall. It’s here that many pilgrimages lead and where locals and tourists can take a moment to rest and look out over the verdant waves of hills and forests stretching into the distance.
The Toutuo Ridge is a hunched ridgeline that lifts up to the main peak and provides an atmospheric lookout scattered with historic landmarks that can be traced back through six dynasties. Linggu Temple sits perched on the eastern side and Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum – an UNESCO World Heritage Site – is half-hidden on the west. The tree-encircled mausoleum is one of the largest imperial tombs in the whole of China. It is significant as the resting place of the first Ming emperor – a tranquil refuge from ‘evil’, dotted with pavilions and courtyards and surrounded by quiet places to stroll, like the Sacred Way, an avenue of squat stone elephants.
Explore the Purple Mountain Observatory
Finished in 1934, the Purple Mountain Observatory is a string of domed telescopes and research facilities and the birthplace of China’s modern astronomy movement. Here, amidst a huddle of tall trees, you’ll find both cutting-edge facilities, modern architecture and ancient apparatus that dates back to the Qing and Ming dynasties. The observatory is accompanied by a well-kept Botanical Garden, where around 3,000 species of flowers bloom in colourful abundance, many of which have unique medicinal properties. As you explore, seek out the statue of Li Shizhen, widely considered to be the father of Chinese botany.
Stay at the luxury Jumeirah Nanjing to uncover the mysteries of the Purple Mountain.