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Nanjing's Ming City Wall is one of the most underrated historic sites in China
Large portions of the once-inaccessible wall will open to public in August
The wall was built between 1366 and 1386
The ancient Chinese were stonewall masters.
China not only has the world’s longest fortification, the 21,196-kilometer-long Great Wall, but arguably the world’s longest circular city wall, the Ming City Wall, which was originally 35 kilometers around.
The latter stands in Jiangsu’s provincial capital of Nanjing.
It’s one of China’s most underrated tourist attractions.
Some 22 of the remaining 25 kilometers of the once-inaccessible wall are scheduled to open to the public in August. (Currently, visitors can access only about three kilometers of the wall.)
The opening coincides with the local government’s preparations for the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games (August 16-24) and is part of an effort to snag the Ming City Wall a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2015.
The wall was built between 1366 and 1386 to protect the founding capital of the Ming Dynasty.
“In the past, the wall was the end of the city,” says Sun Xiaowei, 32, president of the Nanjing-based urban hiking community, HigKing Group.
“But now it’s the starting point of Nanjing’s culture. It’s the most direct reminder of Nanjing’s eventful history.”
Sun recently shared with CNN what he considers the best route to take to get the most out of this generally ignored Chinese treasure.
Stop 1: Zhonghua Gate
Located immediately to the north of Qinhuai River, Zhonghua Gate, or the Gate of China, is one of the best preserved and most intricate barbicans in the world, according to Sun.
The gate is used as a grand entrance to any tour of the City Wall.
It once served as the southern gate of ancient Nanjing, a 15,168-square-meter fortification that contained four layers of defenses, as well as three grand castles, the ruins of which are connected to each other by a wide ring of wall.
After paying an entry fee, visitors can view former garrisons, an exhibition about the history and variety of bricks used to build the City Wall.
Visitors can also climb up a platform with an impressive view over the Qinhuai River to the south and buzzing downtown to the north.
It’s possible to rent a bike and ride atop the wall to Dongshui Guan, a Ming watergate 2.7 kilometers to the northeast.
Zhonghua Gate, Qinhuai District, Nanjing; +86 25 8662 5435; open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; RMB 35 ($5.50)
Stop 2: Dongshui Guan
Dongshui Guan, or the East Water Checkpoint, is a 10-minute bike ride along the wall or a 30-minute walk from Zhonghua Gate.
The restored compound is the only watergate on the Ming City Wall, according to Sun.