Online Encyclopedia

NANKING (" the southern capital ")

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 162 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
NANKING (" the southern capital "), the name by which Kiang-ning, the chief city in the province of Kiangsu, China, has been known for several centuries. Pop. about 140,000. The city stands in 32° 5' N., 118° 47' E., nearly equidistant between Canton and Peking, on the south bank of the Yangtsze Kiang. It dates only from the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368), although it is built on the site of a city which for more than two thousand years figured under various names in the history of the empire. The more ancient city was originally known as Kin-ling; under the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 25) its name was converted into Tan-yang; by the T'ang emperors (A.D. 618–907) it was styled Kiang-nan and Sheng Chow; by the first sovereign of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368–1644) it was created the" southern capital " (Nan-king), and was given the distinctive name of Ying-t'ien; and since the accession to power of the present Manchu rulers it has been officially known as Kiang-ning, though still popularly called Nan-king. It was the seat of the imperial court only during the reigns of the first two emperors of the Ming dynasty, and was deserted for Shun-t'ien (Peking) by Yung-lo, the third sovereign of that line, who in 1403 captured the town and usurped the crown of his nephew, the reigning emperor. The T'aip'ing rebels, who carried the town by assault in 18J3, swept away all the national monuments and most of the more conspicuous public buildings it contained, and destroyed the greater part of the magnificent wall which surrounded it. This wall is said by Chinese topographers to have been 96 li, or 32 m., in circumference. This computation has, however, been shown to be a gross exaggeration, and it is probable that 6o li, or 20 m., would he nearer the actual dimensions. The wall, of which only small portions remain, was about 70 ft. in height, measured 30 ft. in thickness at, the base, and was pierced by thirteen gates. Encircling the north, east, and south sides of the city proper was a second wall which enclosed about double the space of the inner enclosure. In the north-east corner of the town stood the imperial palace reared by Hung-wu, the imperial founder of the modern city. After suffering mutilation at the overthrow of the Ming dynasty, this magnificent building was burnt to the ground on the recapture of the city from the T'aip'ing rebels in 1864. But beyond comparison the most conspicuous public building at Nanking was the famous porcelain tower, which was designed by the emperor Yung-lo (1403–1428) to commemorate the virtues of his mother. Twelve centuries previously an Indian priest deposited on the spot where this monument afterwards stood a relic of Buddha, and raised over the sacred object a small pagoda of three stories in height. During the disturbed times which heralded the close of the Yuen dynasty (1368) this pagoda was utterly destroyed. It was doubtless out of respect to the relic which then perished that Yung-lo chose this site for the erection of his " token-of-gratitude " pagoda. The building was begun in 1413. But before it was finished Yung-lo had passed away, and it was reserved for his successor to see the final pinnacle fixed in its place, after nineteen years had been consumed in carrying out the designs of the imperial architect. In shape the pagoda was an octagon, and was about 26o ft. in height, or, as the Chinese say, with that extraordinary love for inaccurate accuracy which is peculiar to them, 32 chang (a chang equals about r lo in.) 9 ft.-4 in. and -I% of an inch. The outer walls were cased with bricks of the finest white porcelain, and each of the nine stories into which the building was divided was marked by overhanging eaves composed of green glazed tiles of the same material. The summit was crowned with a gilt ball fixed on the top of an iron rod, which in its turn was encircled by nine iron rings. Hung on chains which stretched from this apex to the eaves of the roof were five large pearls of good augury for the safety of the city. One was supposed to avert floods, another to prevent fires, a third to keep dust-storms at a distance, a fourth to allay tempests, and a fifth to guard the city against disturbances. From the eaves of the several stories there hung one hundred and fifty-two bells and countless lanterns. In bygone days Nanking was one of the chief literary centres of the empire, besides being famous forits manufacturing industries. Satin, crape, nankeen, cloth, paper, pottery, and artificial flowers were among its chief products. At Nanking, after its capture by British ships in 1842, Sir Henry Pottinger signed the " Nanking treaty." It was made a treaty port by the French treaty of 1858, but was not formally opened. Its proximity to Chinkiang, where trade had established itself while Nanking was still in the hands of the rebels, made its opening of little advantage, and the point was not pressed. In 1899 it was voluntarily thrown open to foreign trade by the Chinese government, and in 1909 it was connected by railway (192 M. long) with Shanghai. Since 188o Nanking has been slowly recovering from the ruin caused by the T'aip'ing rebellion. Barely one-fourth of the area within the walls has been reoccupied, and though its ancient industries are reviving, no great progress has been made. As the seat of the provincial government of Kiang-nan, however, which embraces the three provinces of Kiang-su, Kiang-si, and Ngan-hui, Nanking is a city of first-class importance. The viceroy of Kiang-nan is the most powerful of all the provincial satraps, as he controls a larger revenue than any other, and has the command of larger forces both naval and military. He is also superintendent of foreign trade for the southern ports, including Shanghai, a position which gives him great weight in all political questions. The city contains an arsenal for the manufacture of munitions of war, also powder-mills. A naval college was opened in 189o, and an imperial military college a few years later under foreign instructors. The only foreign residents are missionaries (mostly American), and employes of the Chinese government. The only remaining features of interest in Nanking are the so-called Ming Tombs, being the mausolea of Hung-wu, the founder of the Ming dynasty, and of one or two of his successors, which lie outside the eastern wall of the city. They are ill cared for and rapidly going to decay. Since 1899 the foreign trade has shown a steady increase.
End of Article: NANKING (" the southern capital ")

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.