The Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum (中山陵) in Nanjing is a special place in the ancient capital of China. Located on Mount Zijin, or Purple Mountain, it is a major tourist attraction for Chinese people. This is because the father of modern China, Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), is buried here. All over the world in Chinatown you will come across his name at least once.
But what makes this man such an important figure in Chinese history? And why should you definitely take a look at his mausoleum in Nanjing? In this article, I’ll explain everything about Sun Yat-Sen and take you to this interesting place in the ancient capital of China.
The Purple Mountain, Mount Zijin and the History of China
Visiting the Purple Mountain is an absolute must when you are in Nanjing. This is because here you will learn more about the history of China. More than 200 historical sites that tell more about ancient China, but also modern China can be found here. One of those sights is of course the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum that lies at the foot of the mountain.
Mount Zijin is 448 meters high and is located in the east of Nanjing. Zijin means copper and is a reference to the purple and gold clouds that form here at sunset and sunrise. And when copper is pure, it takes on a purplish color. The mountain has gone through several names over the centuries. For example, it was also called Bell Mountain, Mount Jiang, Mount Jinling or Mount Shenlie. Today we know it mostly as Mount Zijin, the Purple Mountain.
Sun Yat-Sen indicated that he would like to be buried in Nanjing after his death. The reason is that he ruled from this city as the first president of China in 1912. He owes much to Nanjing, the city where it once began for him and the new China after the fall of the last emperor.
Sun Yat-Sen: The first president of the new China
Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925) is considered the Father of the Nation in both China and Taiwan. He was born in southeastern China and grew up in a poor family. His brother luckily managed to find a good job and regularly sent money to the family. This allowed Sun Yat-Sen to attend boarding school in Hawaii.
Then he studied western medicine in Hong Kong. It was the first time he came into contact with Western influences. For years he had a medical practice, but he was not satisfied with the emperor and the Qing dynasty at the time. He regularly campaigned against the regime and soon had a large support base at home and abroad.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, he was seen as the main figure of the uprisings against imperial authority. The criticism and rebellions became so great that it led to the fall of the emperor and the Qing dynasty in 1911. China became a republic and Sun Yat-Sen the first president of China. But that proved to be short-lived….
Divisions, quarrels and internal strife in Chinese politics soon caused him to flee. He was president for no more than a year. In 1925 he died in Beijing and a mausoleum was built for him in Nanjing. Despite his brief role as president, the Chinese saw him as Father of the Nation. But why?
If the idea of revolution is to win out, it must be through political enlightenment. It is useless to try to impose it by force of arms.SUN YAT-SEN
3 principles of the people: Nationalism, People’s Livelihood and Democracy
Sun Yat-Sen was inspired by the way Western powers functioned. Converted to Christianity, Sun Yat-Sen believed that China should become a republic based on the Western model.
He introduced the 3 principles of the people. The same rights were to apply to everyone in China (nationalism). Each person was allowed to have their own possessions (popular welfare) and the leader of China had to be elected (democracy). This was innovative for the time and soon earned him the title Father of the Nation. A title he still bears, despite the fact that the political circumstances now are different than Sun Yat-Sen intended….
Facts: Sun Yat-Sen was founder of the Kuomintang, a Chinese political party that held power in mainland China for many years. In 1949, the Kuomintang with leader Chiang Kai-Shek was expelled by Mao Zedong’s communists to the island of Taiwan. There Chiang Kai-Shek founded the Republic of China (Taiwan). The flag of Taiwan consists of 3 colors. Each color represents one of the three principles introduced by Sun Yat-Sen.
Review of the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum
Sun Yat-Sen played an important role in the changes that took place in China around 1911. Although he was president for a short period, he is considered the Father of modern China. While visiting his Mausoleum you will find very little information about his life, as most of the information (if any) is given in Chinese. But fortunately you have this page for that purpose. You actually need to arrange a ticket in advance, but upon arrival at the ticket counter, this was arranged for me. Admission is free, by the way.
The construction of the mausoleum began in 1926. It combines the traditional architecture of China with modern elements. The roofs of the gates and the mausoleum itself have blue roofs, which is a reference to the party color of the Kuomintang. The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial in Taipei also has a blue-purple roof. The building was completed in 1929, and on June 1 of that year, Sun Yat-Sen’s body was interred in the mausoleum.
During a visit to the mausoleum you will encounter few Western tourists. The Chinese in particular are eager to pay homage to the Father of the Nation. To do this, you must first climb the 400 steps to the building…
The final resting place of China’s first president is impressive from the inside. It is decorated with lots of marble, pictures of Sun Yat-Sen and a statue. Don’t forget to look at the ceiling where the flag of the Kuomintang is painted. All you have to do is follow the route and you will end up in a small room with the tomb of the good man. Within 30 seconds you are outside again….
If you have time to spare in Nanjing, be sure to visit the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum at the foot of Purple Mountain. Sun Yat-Sen is one of the most important figures in Chinese history and here you will learn more about his life and how Chinese people became emotional about the good man. In addition, in good weather you also have a beautiful view over the city of Nanjing and you will, forced or unforced, have to have your picture taken with Chinese several times. Enough reasons to go…
Practical information about the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum in Nanjing
Nanjing, or Nanking, is about 3 hours by train northwest of Shanghai. The city has a good subway network and Metro Line 2 gets you off at the Xiamafang stop. From here it is about a 20-minute walk to the entrance of the mausoleum. A ticket must be purchased in advance, but this is difficult if you do not speak Chinese. Only 10,000 people are admitted per day. At the entrance there is a desk where they can help you with a ticket (with time slot). So I was lucky that I could walk straight through.
Besides the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, Mount Zijin (purple mountain) has more interesting sights. For example, here you will find the mausoleum of Ming Xiaoling, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). There is a botanical garden and there are some temples to visit, of which the Linggu temple is the most famous. Spending a day at this important Chinese mountain and its monuments is definitely a must! If you have less time you could combine the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum with the Museum of Nanjing.
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