The City Wall of Nanjing (Chinese: 南京城墙; pinyin: Nánjīng chéngqiáng) was designed by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (r. 1368–1398) after he founded the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and established Nanjing as the capital 600 years ago. To consolidate his sovereignty and keep out invaders, he adopted the suggestions of advisor Zhu Sheng to build a higher city wall, to collect grains and to postpone the coronation. Then, he started to build the city wall. It took 21 years to complete, and used 200,000 laborers to move 7 million cubic metres of earth. The City Wall of Nanjing was among the largest city walls ever constructed in China, and today it remains in good condition and has been well preserved.
Different from ancient city walls in Beijing and Xi’an, its design and construction was unique and changed the old ways of equilibrium and symmetry. The construction concentrated on military defence because the city was at the foot of a mountain—a natural barrier to control the commanding elevation with the river as its natural city moat. Because of this, the 60-square-kilometre Nanjing city became strategically located and difficult to reach.
Originally, thirteen gates were built through Nanjing’s walls, but this number had grown to eighteen by the end of the Qing dynasty. Of the thirteen original gates, only Zhonghua Gate in the south, originally known as Jubao Gate, and Heping Gate in the north, originally called Shenci Gate, are still standing. Heping Gate is closed to the public as it is still used as an army barracks. Parts of other gates survive or have been partially reconstructed.
Today the 600-year-old city wall of Nanjing still stands. Experts from Nanjing Cultural Relic Bureau say most of the foundations use granite, rectangle stones or limestone. The walls were packed layer by layer with broken bricks, gravel and yellow earth. All the brickwork joints were poured with mixed lime, water in which glutinous rice had been cooked, and tung oil because the coagulated mixture was very strong. That is why the city wall has stood for a long time. On top of the outer wall were 13,616 crenellations, or battlements, for defenders of the city to observe the enemy or dodge arrows. Opposite it was the parapet wall used as a balustrade to keep the defenders and horses safe. Standing on the wall, you will see tall ancient trees under your feet. Aside the top wall there are stone sluices to drain rain and near the wall’s foundation there are further outlets.
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The City Wall is very ancient.
Chéngqiáng hěn gǔlǎo
The City wall is my favorite place in Nanjing.
Chéngqiáng shì wǒ zài nánjīng zuì xǐhuān de dìfāng
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Xuéxí zhōngwén shì yígè hěn dà de tiǎozhàn
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