The most impressive remnant of Nanjing’s Ming-dynasty golden years, the impressive five-storey Ming bastion which measures over 35 km is the longest city wall ever built in the world. About two-thirds of it still stands.
Built between 1366 and 1393 by more than one million labourers, the layout of the wall is irregular, an exception to the usual square format of those times. It zigzags around Nanjing bills and rivers, accommodating the local landscape. Averaging 12 m high and 7 m wide at the top, the fortification was built of bricks supplied from the Chinese provi
nces. Each brick had stamped on it the place it came from, the overseer’s name and rank, the brick-maker’s name and sometimes the date. This was to ensure that the bricks were well-made. If they broke, they had to be replaced. Many of these stamps remain intact. Some of the original 13 Ming city gates remain, including the Zhongyang Gate in the north, Zhonghua Gate in the south and Zhongxian Gate in the east. The city gates were heavily fortified: built on the site of the old Tang dynasty wall. Zhonghua Gate has four rows of gates, making it almost impregnable, and could house a garrison of 3000 soldiers in vaults inthe front gate building. When walking through, observe the trough in either wall of the second gate, which held a vast stone gate that could be lowered into place. The gate is far more imposing than anything that has survived in Beijing.
You can climb into the masonry for exploration at several points. Long walks extend along the wall from Zhongshan Gate in the east of the city and it’s quite common to see locals walking their dogs or taking post-dinner walks along the weathered path: there is no charge for climbing the wall here.
One of the best places to access the gate is from the rear of Jiming Temple Walk to Jiuhuashan Park off Taiping Beilu, looking out over huge Xuanwu Lake Park and passing crumbling hillside pagodas along the way.