厦门白鹭洲公园 Bai Lu Zhou Park in Nanjing

白鹭洲公园 báilù zhōu gōngyuán was my second favorite scenic area in Nanjing. I spent my last morning aimlessly wandering around this park, absorbing all of its peacefulness before jumping back in the regular school routine.

Fun fact: Bailuzhou Park is mainly based on the theme of Music Fountain Square, and the center of Bailiff Statue and Pigeon Square. It’s apparently pretty festive during celebratory occasions, for instance, the Lantern festival exhibition is displayed here.

Bailuzhou Park is located in the south of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on the north side of Wudingmen, south of the Qinhuai River Lishe Bridge and Taoyedu, in the Qinhuai scenery zone of Confucius Temple.

I recommend coming here during the morning if you enjoy a nice sunrise, or at night time, when the park is lit up. Whatever floats your boat.

南京博物馆 Nanjing Museum

南京博物馆 Nánjīng Bówùyuàn, also known as Nanjing Museum is one of the biggest museums in China. With over 400,000 historical artifacts from the Ming and Qing imperial porcelain, including including jade, bronze, ceramics, lacquer wares, silk & embroidery, paintings & calligraphies, seals and steles. No wonder why this place is famous.

Among one of the first established museums in China, this site serves as a great foundation to learn about China’s cultural past. The site is divided into 6 different exhibition halls: Historical Hall, Art Hall, Digital Hall, Republic of China Hall, Intangible Cultural Heritage Hall and Special Exhibition Hall.

1) Historical Hall

Exhibition of Jiangsu Area in Ancient Times, displaying plenty of the exhibits in chronological order from ancient times to Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing (1644 – 1911) dynasties.

2) Art Hall (for all you art lovers out there, this is for you!)

The Painting Gallery introduces the representative 10 schools of local painting in Ming and Qing dynasties, vividly showing the normal life at that time. Chenzhifo Gallery shows many painting works about flowers and birds of Chenzhifo, a famous Chinese artist.

Fubaoshi Art Gallery on the 2F of Nanjing Museum Art Hall exhibits the painting, sealing cutting and paper works about painting of Fubaoshi. Wuweishan Sculpture Gallery in the first floor shows the many sculptures of celebrities from home and abroad, like the ancient Chinese Poet Li Bai, the famous modern artist Qi Baishi, and the great Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

3) Digital Hall

The real hall covers an area of 1,200 square meters (1,435 square yards), creating six exhibition areas to show China’s ancient civilization. The virtual hall, using internet and image recognition, is the extended area of the real hall. Here, there are interactive games for visitors of all ages.

4) Republic of China Hall

Together with the tramcar, many residential buildings in Republic of China period stand along the street, such as post office, barber shop, Chinese pharmacy, bookstore and jewelry store.

5) Intangible Cultural Heritage Hall

Exhibition introduces the intangible cultural heritages and shows the Jiangsu traditional handcraft and performance. Intangible cultural heritages include paper cutting, festival lantern making, Kun Opera and storytelling and ballad singing.

6) Special Exhibition Hall

Consists of 10 exhibition halls used to display temporary exhibitions.

Helpful tip: This museum is FREE! For foreigners, just show your passport and you will be given a receipt just like I did (see photo above)!

Discloser: There are lines to enter into this museum. Be prepared to wait for 1 hour at the very least. I suggest going during the weekdays and non-holidays. Bring water as well.

中山陵 Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum

中山陵 Zhōngshān Líng, also known as the Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum is a memorial site honoring Dr. Sun, who born in 1866 and passed in 1925, was considered the “Father of China”.

Born in the Guangdong province, Dr. Sun is well known for fighting against the imperial Qing government after the 1911 revolution ended the monarchy and helped find the Republic of China.

中山陵 is located at the second peak of the Purple Mountain in Nanjing. Since this site is situated on an enormous mountain, I recommend lining up for the shuttle bus (which is right next to the ticket window upon entry). The entry will allow you into 钟山风景名胜区 Zhongshan National Park, I believe tickets costs 50¥ or about $7 USD (after student discount).

The line for the shuttle is not hard to miss because that’s the only place where the rest of the Chinese tourists are. If you’re lost, follow the crowd because chances are, everyone’s wants to go to the same scenic spot as you do.

I believe the shuttle busses can also take you to different sites on the mountain. However, if you haven’t noticed already, you will need to allot time for exploring by foot. Stairs, hills, trails, and crowded shuttles will be the main consumers of your time.

China is extremely hot during the summer season. So of course, I did what any young person would do and indulge in some ice cream. Russian ice cream, to be exact. Its Chinese name is 饿梦斯大板 and it’s too sad it’s not sold in the US. Probably the best ice cream I bought in China.

Disclosed: there’s a TON of stairs on this site. Unless you’re ambitious like me and skip steps, going up these stairs will take forever. But once you make it to the top, the view is so worth it!

(江南贡院) 中国科举历史博物馆 Jiang Nan Examination Center History Museum

江南贡院 or also known as Jiang Nan Examination Center, this was of China’s History Museum for the Imperial Exam System. It is located across the other Imperial museum. This museum preserves cultural relics, previous scholars’ written works, materials used, and other historical artifacts.

Stepping into this History museum, I was amazed by how many wooden logs, yes wooden logs, I saw stacked up. Fun fact: The original front gate of Jiangnan Examination Hall was constructed entirely of wood. Only seems fitting to see this upon my arrival.

Though the Imperial Examination System was established in Sui Dynasty, it could date back to pre-Qin period. The local recommendation and examination in West Zhou, the Recommendatory System in the Han Dynasty, and the Nine Rank System served the function of selecting the talents at different times. Here’s a brief rundown of the different systems:

The Local recommendation and examination system 鄉舉里選 was before the Han Dynasty. The way to select talents was to take care of the political and religious hometown of each township, once every three years, in accordance with the six virtues (knowledge, benevolence, holyness, righteousness, loyalty, harmony) and six elements (filial piety, friendship, envy, jealousy, responsibility, Shirts, six arts (ritual, music, shooting, imperial, book, number) selection can be reported to the central government appointment.

The Recommendatory System 察舉制度 was where the local governor inspects and selects talents at any time in the jurisdiction, and recommends it to the superior or the central government. After being tested and assessed, he is appointed as an official.

The regular inspection subjects are called Changke or old-age, such as Xiaolian and Xiucai. The emperor asks for the tribute to the special department, the department or the singer, such as Xianliang, Literature, Mingjing, and Taoism. Etc. The objects of the investigation are both civilians and current employees. Xiao Lianke is the source of the most important officials in the Han Dynasty.

The Nine Rank 九品中正制 system or the nine grade controller system, was used to categorize and classify government officials. Prior to the Nine ranks, official positions were denoted by their salary paid in number of bushels of grain.

However, due to the lack of objective evaluation standards, these systems derived the shortcomings such as, falsification, abuse of power for personal gains, and a family monopoly.

I felt as if I had stepped back in time and absorbed all the history about the Imperial examination system that once ruled China. Highly recommend to visit this place, especially if you happen to be in the area.

南京中国科举博物馆 Nanjing Imperial Examination Museum of China (Part 1)

南京中国科举博物馆 Nanjing Imperial Examination Museum of China or also known as 江南贡院 Jiangnan Gongyuan is China’s largest imperial examination centers. It’s located to the east of the Nanjing Confucius Temple in the Qinhuai District of Nanjing city.

Originally built in 1168, the Jiangnan Examination Hall was used for both the provincial level exams 举人 (ju ren) and metropolitan examination 进士 (jin shi). First off, what was the Imperial Examination system??

Civil service examinations or 科举 (ke ju) were basically run for selecting candidates for the state bureaucracy from 650 CE to 1905. The exams served to ensure a common knowledge of writing, the classics, and literary style among state officials. Finally in 1905 by the Qing Dynasty, it was abolished.

Fun fact: The exam itself lasted between 24-72 hours!! The candidates were locked into small cells with a board for a desk and bucket for a toilet. If a candidate d i e d during the exam, the test officials would roll the body in a mat and throw it over the test compound wall, rather than allowing relatives to come into the examination zone to claim it. Dude, that’s just not right.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the different titles:

  • 秀才 xiu4 cai – a person who has passed the county level imperial exam (top students from small village)
  • 举人 ju3 ren2 – successful candidate in the imperial provincial exams
  • 贡士 gong4 shi4 – (attend national exam) candidate who successfully passed the first grades of the exam system, but not yet the court exam
  • 进士 jin4 shi4 – (exam held by the emperor) successful candidate in the highest imperial civil service exam; palace graduate
  • 状元 zhuang4 yuan2 – top scorer in the palace examination (highest rank of the imperial exam system)
  • 帮院 bang3 yan3 – second highest scorer in the Han-lin exam
  • 探花 tan4 hua1 – third highest scorer in the Han-lin exam

More info on the imperial examination system can be accessed here and here.

Walking here in modern times as a student in university felt so bizarre because times have changed. Education systems are managed now so differently. I really can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to test under such stressful conditions.

My favorite part about this museum were the hallways outside with ribbons hung on the columns. Wind flew past, making the red ribbons dance through the air. The finishing touch was the river glistening in the moonlight.

The photo on the bottom reads: 根寻姓家百元状, basically they are key chains of last names in Chinese and symbolic meaning to them.

Another post will be uploaded about the History museum in Jiangnan Examination Hall, a place reflecting on the imperial examination system that also showcases cultural relics.

南京夫子庙秦淮风光带 Nanjing Confucian Temple & Qin Huai Scenic Spot

夫子庙 Fu Zi Miao, also known as the Confucius temple is located in Nanjing’s Qinhuai District. The surrounding area is called 江南公园 Jiangnan Gongyuan, these streets are bustling with businesses such as snack bars, restaurants, tourist shops, museums, and tea cafes.

Here are some goodies I bought:

1. Clear noodles with shredded carrots & cucumber, soy sauce as the condiment

2. 包子 white rice flour bread buns filled with vegetables & meat

3. Refreshing watermelon juice!! (Probably the best one I’ve ever had in my life lol)

The development of Gongyuan began in the Southern Song Dynasty, expanding into the Ming and Qing Dynasties, until in the reign of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty. It developed to be the biggest exanimation school in China.

Visiting this place was one of my highlights when I was in China. Although I got lost trying to find my hostel, I felt as if I was in a little village with the beautiful Qin shuai River holding it all together.

Fun fact: The Qin Huai River is actually the largest river in Nanjing, measuring a total of 110 kilometers (about 68 miles) in length and covers a drainage area of 2,631 square kilometers (about 1,016 square miles)!!

Another fun fact: Due to all the rich history dating back to the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, this river is also known as the “life blood” of the city.

Keep posted on my adventures in Nanjing, I will upload more posts on Fu Zi Miao (Confucian Temple), Imperial Examinational Hall, and much more!

杭州的西湖 Hangzhou’s West Lake

西湖 Xi Hu is notorious if you ever make your way to Hangzhou. 西湖, Xī hú, or West lake has been recognized by UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as a World Heritage site. Basically, it’s been proven by a specialized agency in France to be a beautiful scenic spot in China.

Photos taken above are at 杭州西湖风景名胜区, one of the MANY areas located around this lake to take awesome naturist photos. Here are some other scenic spots:

  • Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
  • Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷)
  • Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月)
  • Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (斷橋殘雪)
  • Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
  • Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
  • Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
  • Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
  • Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
  • Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚鐘)

Fun fact: This lake covers roughly 350 km or 220 miles. Another fun fact: The photo on the bottom shows the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (located in the south central section of the lake).

The three pools refer to the three pear-shaped pagodas arranged in a triangle in the water. Their purpose was to indicate that water chestnuts and lotus plants were not allowed to be grown in the area to prevent silt from building up in the lake. They also measure 2 meters in height!!

Note: West lake is a FREE attraction but it is best to go EARLY to avoid the crowds. The boat ride across costs a couple bucks, but it’s totally worth it (also if you’re a student, you get discount!) Bring bug spray too, mosquitoes are everywhere.

钟书阁 Zhong Bookstore

钟书阁 The Zhong Shu Ge bookstore became Shanghai’s literature landmark in 2013, as it is praised as the most beautiful bookstore in China. Although we didn’t go to the branch in Shanghai, we personally thought that the aesthetic at the Hangzhou one was just as exquisite.

This bookstore was located inside a shopping mall so the size was not as grand as I’d expected it to be, but talk about the mirrors in this place. I don’t see I’ve seen that many mirrors in a bookstore ever, however the lighting that set the atmosphere made for quite a charming vibe.

The last photo I included in this photo gallery above is sadly not an extension of this bookstore, but more so inside the shopping center. It’s actually a more sophisticated of the American Chuckle Cheese but with more pink and Asians.

河坊街 Hefang Street in Hangzhou

Hefang Street, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China, 310002

河坊街 Hefang street goes all the way back to the Southern Song Dynasty, when was the capital city of the Wuyue Kingdom (1127-1279). Hefang street was a popular business site and the center for culture and politics. This place gave me more chill street vendor vibes that served as a popular tourist destination for anything Chinese medicine or souvenir related.

Our friend who is a local showed us around this area of Hangzhou and also gave us a mini-tour of a museum for Chinese herbal medicine! I forget the exact name of the spot we went to but it’s not hard to miss since there are two main ones: Hu Qing Yu Tang 胡庆余堂 and Baohe Tang 保和堂. Nice to know that there’s famously established Chinese medicine spots, especially in a local street market area!

Now onto the food!

In terms of food and beverages, I would say Hefang street is good for finding small snacks, desserts, and tea. That’s why we went to an actual restaurant 卤儿道道 Lu Er Dao Dao for food food.

In the picture above, our friend ordered duck, braised soy eggs, brown fried rice, brown fried rice but with seafood, braised cabbage, tofu chicken, Chinese sausage, and the classic braised chicken feet. According to our friend, this place is where all the local people in Hangzhou eat, haha. (I mean he’s not wrong considering the place has like over 1,000 reviews with four stars.)

Lastly, we finished the night off with some Awfully Chocolate drinks. We ordered two chocolate banana cold beverages as well as one white chocolate. Not too sweet but definitely tastes like chocolate lol.

雷峰塔 Lei Feng Pagoda

雷峰塔 Lei Feng Ta, or also originally known as 皇妃塔 Huang Fei Ta is a reconstructed relic pagoda of the former one that was built during the Northern Song Dynasty (977). Lei Feng Pagoda was established by King of Wuyue Kingdom to celebrate the pregnancy of his favorite concubine, Huangfei.

During the Xuanhe Period of the Northern Song Dynasty (1120), the original pagoda was damaged by war and was renovated during the Qingyuan Period of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Legend of Leifeng Pagoda:

Leifeng Pagoda is associated with a touching love story between a white snake spirit and a mortal man. Legend has it that a white snake and a blue snake took on the appearance of beautiful ladies after acquiring the supernatural powers over thousands of years. They were named Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing. One day when they were visiting West Lake, it suddenly rained. Fortunately, they met a scholar named Xu Xi’an on the Broken Bridge. He lent his umbrella to them. Xu Xi’an and Bai Suzhen fell in love with each other at first sight. Soon, they were married.

However, Evil Monk Fa Hai imprisoned Xu Xi’an so as to separate this couple. Bai Suzhen tried hard to save her husband by using her power. But all her efforts were in vain, and she was imprisoned under the Leifeng Pagoda. Driven by anger and sadness, Xiao Qing tried her utmost to improve her supernatural power. Finally, she beat the Evil Monk Fa Hai, tore down the tower, and saved Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an. From then on, Bai Suzhen and Xu Xi’an lived together happily.

-Travel China Guide  

The Leifeng Pagoda has five stories, trust me once you reach the top, the gorgeous view overlooking West Lake is worth it! Be prepared for lots and lots of stairs, haha. There are elevators but usually families with kids or baby strollers lined up for them.