April 14th: Taking in Nanjing

Two things never to attempt in Nanjing on a Saturday night:

  1. Hailing a taxi after 10pm. Never mind the fact that the taxi’s colour indicator is the opposite to that in Shanghai (where green means available for hire); there just aren’t any available taxis.  Even if there were, you’d be fighting with far more savvy locals. Instead, get the number 7 bus.  It worked out perfectly for us (although having Anny to guide us probably helped).
  2. Booking into certain hotels if you’re not Chinese.  Either the hotel staff in our selected branch of Home Inn took an instant dislike to me and Bron or the government’s rule about needing to certify each hotel’s capability for accepting foreign guests is genuine (as was the hotel’s apparent lack of such certification).  I would like to know what tests they have to pass to achieve this status since, for example, if I can’t speak enough Chinese to book a room it isn’t the hotel’s problem and it certainly isn’t the government’s.

Memorial to the Nanjing MassacreOn probably our last outing of this type, we joined Anny’s extended family along with Linda, her husband & daughter for our trip to Nanjing.  Another of China’s former capitals (until as recently as the 1940s), it’s a city of contrasts, from the combined natural and man-made beauty of such sights as Dr Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum on Mount Zijin to the memorial for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians and disarmed soldiers at the hands of Japanese invaders in December 1937.   The latter explaining many of my former co-workers’ feelings towards Japan (in part caused by a perceived reluctance by the Japanese state to fully acknowledge and apologise for the massacre).

The memorial is incredibly and deliberately evocative, with many written and photographic graphic exhibits revealing the events leading up to, during and after the six-week massacre.  The chilling sight of the proportion of the ‘Pit of ten thousand corpses’ on display, with skeletons upon skeletons, some scattered and some intact, leaves the visitor (well, definitely me) wondering what happens to a fellow human such that they could maim, torture, rape and brutally execute other human beings.  The ‘Forgotten Holocaust’, as it has been called by some historians.

Looking downhill from Dr Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum

Looking downhill from Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum

The Memorial visit was on Sunday; Saturday’s climb to Dr Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum was a far more uplifting experience.  Shortly followed by a meal and  a little rice wine with all, and a late night game of Chinese style poker with Anny.  Playing Chinese poker with a Chinese expert when you’re a newcomer to the game is always going to be a bad idea.  And a costly one.

Anny and Linda – you and your families have once again been more than gracious hosts.  We hope to be able to return the favour one day when you visit the UK.  Soon.

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