Purple Mountain (Zijin Shan)

Standing on the eastern side of Nanjing’s city, Purple Mountain plays host to most of Nanjing’s tourist attractions. Covering 31 square meters and standing 448m tall at its highest point, Purple Mountain boasts of being one of the four most famous mountains of China south of the Yangtze River as one of its claims to fame. Apparently it received its ‘Purple Mountain’ nickname because purple clouds can sometimes be seen hovering over it. More likely you’ll see clouds of grey smog.

The major sights of Purple Mountain are concentrated on the southern slope and are described in detail on the following pages. However, it might also be worthwhile spending some time walking the mountain’s numerous hiking trails. If this is up your alley, then the west side of the mountain, where the cable car is located is the best place to start. On the way up you can stop at the Purple Mountain Observatory (admission: ¥15), one of China’s first modern observatories, dating from 1934. The main attraction here is the museum displaying astronomical devices dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). If you have already visited the Ancient Observatory in Beijing then don’t bother with this one. Otherwise, it’s well worth a look.

An alternative to hiking the mountain is to take the Cable Car (¥25 one way; ¥45 return. Open 9-17) to the top. The view from the mountain peak is uninspiring: hazy and with the surrounding natural scenery (the mountain and Xuanwu Lake) the only attractive features. But it’s a fun 30 minute ride to the top. You can also stop off at the Observatory.

Directions: The cable car and start of the hiking routes which reach the observatory are on the western side of Zijin Shan. Take Bus 20 (¥1) from the west side of the Drum Tower or Bus Y3 (¥2) from the train station. You should get off at the first stop after you start to ascend the mountain. Alternatively, a taxi from the city center will cost about ¥15-20.

Note: The three ‘Scenic Areas’ described on the following pages (Ming Xiaoling Scenic Area, Sun Yatsen Mausoleum and the Linggu Temple Scenic Area) are the major sights of Purple Mountain.  There are little tourist trams to shuttle you between the three spots for ¥10.  There’s a lot of walking to do and a lot to see here, so allow a full day if possible.

Show the taxi driver: 请带我去紫金山索道, 谢谢。 (Please take me to Purple Mountain Cableway. Thank you.)