Nanjing, June 20 2012

The train to Nanjing leaves two minutes before its scheduled time. Apparently there is no such thing as being late for a train.

In this socialist country, not even silverware and plates are free at restaurants.

The high speed rail skis through countryside fog. Or is that pollution? No one seems to know the difference around here.

Confucius Temple area at night.

Nanjing is an old Capital, the southern capital to Beijing’s northern capital, but now it is mostly a college town. It is bordered by the oldest city wall in the world, a remnant of the 14th century Ming dynasty. The city has a spectacular mix of architecture, from the Ming-era walls, to the 2,500 year old Confucius temple, to the 1912 district where Sun Yat-Sen set up the Republic of China, to the contemporary shopping districts and artsy Nanjing library.

It pays to be a flaneur in Nanjing.

Nanjing Library

The artful look of the Nanjing massacre museum is enough to lay waste to Singapore’s urban “environs”.

Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, or “The Memorial for compatriots killed in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Forces of Aggression”

The Nanjing Massacre Museum is part recovered history, part stacks and stacks of official documents that apparently prove that the Nanjing Massacre actually happened. Japan, typically, still denies the massacre, though on occasion the government admits that around 3,000 people may have been murdered. Chinese researchers estimate the total at around 300,000, about half in mass massacres, and about half in random slaughtering, looting and rape.

“My dear poor wife!/The devil raped you, killed you…/I’m right after you!”

This is not the first massacre and war museum that I’ve been to that spends half its time speaking against Japanese official history. There seems to be one in almost every city that the Japanese occupied.

Shopping district, Xinjiekou

The student-heavy night life districts and night markets are merged with the ancient sites, creating areas that are sacred during the day, and then at night, are inhabited by Chinese electronic music, buzzing lights, and wasted students. For anyone wondering what Chinese electropop sounds like, consider SingerSen.

KTV

For their lack of any internationally famous tourist spots, Nanjing is more for students than travelers or tourists. Perhaps that is why the people here seem so playful, vibrant and helpful.

Underground stalls and lights are like the shopping district in A Clockwork Orange

A kind avuncular Chinese professor living in America shows me around the city, announcing proudly that Nanjing is “my city!”

City Wall Modal

Thus I experience Chinese KTV (karaoke) for the first time, which is quite similar to KTV in Taiwan. Perhaps because the KTV companies are Taiwanese, and all the lyrics are in traditional Chinese script.

“We paid so much for that room, those KTV girls would have done anything we wanted.”

—Anything? As in, fix our cable?

Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum. One of the only places in China that the Republic of China (Koumintang) flag still stands.

Many of the foreign (white) students I meet are Sinophiles, who study Chinese history, culture and language, just for the hell of it. Their love for the culture and the scripts is shown in every polite gesture they make with the locals, every laugh and piece of barbecued kebab they share. It is a fascination that for many of them, began with films of Zhong Yimao, Ang Lee and Wong Kar Wai.

View from the City Wall

Check this city among one of the places I wouldn’t mind spending a year in.

view from Xianqwu lake, at the train station.

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