By: Daniel Otero; photo courtesy of Peter Jarvis
Nanjing, China – I felt and knew it was a special discovery, exceptional for the eyes to see! Even on a cloudy or smoggy day it was different… Some of it extremely new and other things meshed in with history and the old. Not a very well known site in Northwestern Nanjing and near the precious views of the Yangtze River for all to see. You see, as a lover of history, only one thing could come to mind, why wasn’t this place promoted more? Even it’s barely mentioned in the tourism guides. Take line 1 of the Metro to its final stop (Maigaoqiao) and then, catch number 8 bus heading northeast.
The exploration was open to investigate something unique. I was full of questions and wanted to find out in my impatience. This is precious piece of shrub and mount, with the name of “Swallow Rock”. It can even be considered like Yuhuatai (Martyrs’ Cemetery), as hollow ground! Why was that? What are a swallow and a rock? Well, to give a literal explanation, it’s describing the landing area for birds in their habitat. And it is gorgeously-lovely and not to fall into clichés, well placed. With uphill walk paths and colorful gardens that shine with flowers and trees in spring time to orange shades in autumn. I was in for a surprise! I was to learn an entire new way or view of looking at Nanjing history. When Emperor Qianlong first came here as part of his Dynasty, this was his point of paradise. For this point is 36 meters high and it helped in his meditation and love for poetry. It’s surrounded by trees and constant songs of birds! Peaceful to say the least… Therefore, like Li Bai, he wrote beauty.
In a sinister way this Mount got another meaning centuries later, which will be explain in a brief moment… Carvings are placed in stone all over the rocks. One can also notice the symbolism of a wine-cup in stone and those that come here to remember, but to remember what? As I climbed, I was still trying to understand. For 10 RMB the anticipation was too much! So I had to ask, as Peter Jarvis guided me with his story and camera. Reaching an inscription and it was then in brutal shock–as I came to read! In 1937, 50 thousand people were brought here by the Japanese to be executed. To save bullets, thousands were thrown from the cliff into the shallow coastline. So, this is a kind of poetic-garden to meditate and never forget a horrible time in history. In time, it also got [maybe] another name like, ‘Suicide rock or point’. Since it was high enough to jump off and without any chance of survival, people came here to end it all! Thank goodness and as times have changed, and things got better, the area has a barrier for people to not go over and it has its warnings around the premises. And still, people can climb over at perilous risk of life and however, I would like to believe that today people are more hopeful of their lives and for the future of China.
Once leaving these premises, there is a quick and brisk walk along the coastline. There is a ‘new’ boardwalk intending to bring back to life the history of China and engulf it in beauty. As kites flew, they swung overhead–it was surprising to see another area. Across the street there is a hidden monastery dedicated to Buddha and a scenic walk. For 30 RMB, it’s an easy access. From the “Swallow Rock”, it is about 200 meter walk to the entrance. The scenery can be seen from a distance with its golden Buddha and shinny symbolisms. Lovely, isn’t it? You have to be here to understand. Walking there is a row of golden-religious statues. Giving respect to the monastery that was built into the mountain and caves to follow into if one is well prepared with a flashlight! As a Buddhist, it’s easy to find a private place for prayers and meditation. Few people really know about this place and it’s a get away from the overcrowded-center of Nanjing. To the right of the facilities there are more golden and Buddhist statues reflecting spirituality. The lake holds fish and stone paths to walk and take pictures of what easily shines from across. This one is easy to find and worth the walk for the scenery and beauty!
How much time should you give yourself on your first visit? Without rushing to taste pure peace and freedom, well, I suggest between “Swallow Rock” and the Muyan Riverside Scenery, give your selves at least three hours to complete at an easy and slow pace! Don’t come here in a rush, there is too much to explore and see. You’ll be wasting the trip. Focus and think about it before coming here. This place is just too grand to rush!
With even more time and if you love to walk, there is an eight kilometer walk. This boardwalk will connect to another portion and lead you to another site of China’s history, Zheng He’s replica. Therefore, with enough time, do take it easy and enjoy! Good luck.