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Nanjing is an age-old city that was civilized some 6,000 years ago by farmers. It also served as China's capital throughout ten dynasties. Nanjing has been called by many names since its creation – historical records list more than forty names, including Jinling, Moling, Jianye, Jiankang, Jiangning, Yingtian and Tianjing.

In 472BC, Gou Jian, the king of the Yue State, built city walls at the southwest corner of present Zhonghua Gate. This area was historically called Yue City, and is the earliest record of a fortified castle in Nanjing (some 2,480 years ago).

First Heyday in History

China entered an era of turmoil and internal division between nations that began in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280) and lasted through the Northern (386-581) and Southern (420-589) Dynasties. It was during this period that Nanjing City first experienced prosperity.

Wu Kingdom (one of the Three Kingdoms) established Jianye as its capital and Nanjing was vaulted from an ordinary county to a state capital. After that, another four states (Song, Qi Liang and Chen) in Southeast China successively moved their capitals to Nanjing (which was, at the time, called Jiankang). Around 320 AD, Nanjing was made capital of six dynasties. Although the warring in Northern China persisted, relative tranquility gave Jiankang a good opportunity to develop, and it finally became a thriving economic and cultural center of South China. Xiao Yan, Wu Emperor of Liang (502-557), reigned for forty eight years from Jiankang, developing the city and its immediate surroundings into a hub of culture and commercialism. Unfortunately not much architecture remains from these six dynasties, and Architectures the Liang style buildings that do exist in Japan are national treasures.


Following its 300 years of prosperity, Nanjing's era of much spiraled downwards during the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties. During this time the Tang Court became worried about separatist regimes and downgraded Nanjing (then called Jinling) into a prefecture or county. Though no longer a capital city, relics of former dynasties were frequently visited by poets and scholars, and used in poems that meditated on the past.

During the Five Dynasties and Ten States Period of late Tang Dynasty, Jinling was made to be the capital of Southern Tang (937-975), and partly recovered. Nan Tang placed a strong emphasis on agriculture, commerce and art. Emperor Li Jing and his heir Li Yu were talented poets. Nan Tang's cultural and artistic endeavors laid a strong foundation for the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

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