Reliving My Childhood

by Yafei Zhu, October 18, 2018 

My favorite place to visit growing up in Nanjing was Zhong Shan Ling (home of the Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum). Every year my parents prepared snacks and took us by bike or on the bus to this special place. We would climb up all the steps to Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s tomb, marvel at the exceptional architecture, take in the amazing views of the city below, and have a picnic in the shade of a tree. Dr. Sun Yat-sen is the founding father of modern China and his resting place in Zhong Shan Ling has made a lasting impression on many Chinese people’s hearts.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum is situated at the foot of the second peak of the Purple Mountain (Zijing Shan). Construction of the tomb started in January 1926 and was finished in the Spring of 1929. Wanting my daughter, Xaria, to experience this special place in my hometown, I decided to take her on October 13, ten days after initially arriving in Nanjing. Xaria woke up very early on that Saturday morning and was so excited to see Mommy’s favorite place.

At 9:30 am, we called DIDI Travel (equivalent to Uber in the USA), and within five minutes we were in the taxi.

Joy in the taxi to Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum is situated at the foot of the second peak of Mount Zijin in Nanjing, China

In the past a taxi could take you straight to Zhong Shan Ling, now all visitors must be dropped off at the Zijing Culture Mall to wait for the park-controlled buses. In recent years, the Zhong Shan Scenic Area has become very popular with local Chinese and tourists. After a twenty-minute taxi ride, we arrived at the mall to find millions of people waiting for the park buses! I was not expecting this and when I went to get tickets things did not get better.

Crowds at Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum is situated at the foot of the second peak of Mount Zijin in Nanjing, China

The park has become so popular you must reserve tickets online (this was never the case before). I fired up my WeChat app, scanned the QR code posted on the walls around the ticket booth to discover the earliest tickets to enter the park were at 2:30 pm. I tried my best to reserve a time but failed. Frustrated and with no help available, we decided to take the bus to the park entrance and see if we could find help there.

Even with the mass of people waiting the bus lines moved quickly and after twenty minutes, it was our turn to board. We arrived at the entrance to Zhong Shan Ling around 10:30 am. The bus ride was fun and pleasant, especially looking at the huge French phoenix trees lining the roads. It brought back memories of my childhood, of riding bikes with my parents and friends, immersed in sunlight and laughs. These pleasant memories faded immediately at the park entrance, there were so many people I could not get close to the gate to talk to someone to help with the reservation. Xaria and my Mom found a quiet place where she could keep an eye on Xaria, and I went to deal with the reservation situation. At the ticket counter, the clerk said the WeChat reservation system was slow and suggested using the machines outside. This did not work either, and so I went back to the ticket counter joining many other frustrated visitors. By the time I was offered a timeslot, the earliest available was now 4:30 pm! This was certainly not going to work, Xaria was not going to get through the day without a nap! The clerks said there were about 30,000 spots for each reservation timeslot indicating that 90,000 had already visited today – how things have changed.

Somewhat dejected, we decided to head to another nearby scenic location called Ming Xiao Ling. The Ming Xiao Mausoleum is one of the biggest imperial tombs in China. Emperor Chengzu, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and Queen Ma are buried here. Construction of Ming Xiao Ling began in 1381 and it lies at the southern foot of the Purple Mountain. Fortunately, it was a quick and easy ride on less crowded buses. However, when we got off the bus, there were no signs to be found to tell us which direction to go. Standing on the street, I attempted several times to ask for directions. I felt lost even though I was born here and speak the language fluently. No one could give a correct answer, and everyone pointed us in different directions! Finally, I found a clerk at a parking lot ticket booth who impatiently said, “Are you blind? The sign is right there!” Following her outstretched arm, I spotted a whole bunch of small brown signs hidden behind a huge French phoenix tree. Truly amazing – finally we had found the path to Ming Xiao Ling. As we Chinese always say, “under the nose is the road” – all I needed to do was ask and not get upset with impatient people. I felt sorry for the foreigners and seniors. So much waiting, walking, and a reservation system that neither group can easily use.

We arrived at Ming Xiao Ling around noon. Xaria was amazed by all the huge stone animal statues built six hundred years ago.

The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the tomb of the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming dynasty.

She thought it was very cool that Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang had all these animals and really wanted to meet him in person! I told her that Mom and Grandpa have the same last name as Emperor Zhu Yuazhang, and there was a possibility that we were the emperor Zhu’s descendants. Xaria’s eyes opened wide with excitement and she said, “my last name is Zhu too.”

The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the tomb of the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming dynasty.

The path with the stone animals leading to the Ming tombs is long and after a while, Xaria said she was worn out. In Chinese, she said, “Lei Si le” the direct translation of which is “so tired to death.” Mom and I laughed - I knew it was time to call it a day. As we walked back to the bus station, Xaria spotted a vendor selling Tanghulu – this snack is bright red and no one could miss his colorful display.

Tanghulu also called bingtanghulu, is a traditional Chinese snack of candied Crataegus pinnatifida, also known as mountain hawthorn, Chinese haw, Chinese hawthorn or Chinese hawberry

Xaria eagerly accepted her first Tanghulu but it took her a while to figure out how to eat it.

Tanghulu also called bingtanghulu, is a traditional Chinese snack of candied Crataegus pinnatifida, also known as mountain hawthorn, Chinese haw, Chinese hawthorn or Chinese hawberry.

Tanghulu, also called Bingtanghulu, is a traditional Chinese snack of candied Crataegus pinnatifida, also known as mountain hawthorn, Chinese haw, Chinese hawthorn or Chinese hawberry. In Chinese, it is called Shanzha. All Chinese kids grow up eating Tanghulu, and I was so happy that Xaria loved it right away.

The bus station was overrun – I guess we should not have been surprised. I decided to call a park-taxi (only permitted to operate within the Zhong Shan Scenic Area) but Mom felt it was too expensive. The taxi driver asked for 20RMB (about $3) for the three of us for less than a five-minute ride. I felt like I was dealing with two kids at the same time – Xaria wanted to get the taxi because she was tired and Mom wanted to wait for the bus because we had already paid for the tickets! In the end, I had to be the boss, calm everyone down, get them in the taxi, and within five minutes we were back at the Zijing Culture Mall. From there it was another taxi back to my parents' apartment. We arrived home around 2 pm, everyone was tired and we all went for a well-deserved nap. What an eventful and memorable day!!!

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