Nanjing is one of the four ancient capitals of China and was my last stay in the Middle Kingdom before returning home to Australia. I was beginning to get tired and so, looked for that calm centre, not only within but also without, a traditional Chinese garden.
By this stage, I had mastered the Metro, which fortunately for me shows the stations in English as well as Mandarin, but on that morning as I was pondering which direction to take-yes, I am directionally challenged and Google dependent- a lovely young woman approached. Clearly on her way to work with coffee cup in hand she went out of her way to help a foreigner in her home city, giving me detailed instructions on how to find the Zhan gardens
I always find Chinese gardens supremely relaxing. They are after all designed to have such an effect.The artform of creating such a tranquil haven was developed over three thousand years and while the main purpose of its construction is to reveal the balance between humans and the natural world, heaven and earth, Yin and Yang, the outcome of such a balanced harmonious approach inevitably leads we humans to reflect and contemplate on the deeper aspects of life
I found my own little secluded pavillion, perfect for a short meditation and began to release some of the built up tension which inevitably accompanies travel. I also reflected on Nanjing too. What a remarkably resilient city; it had twice come close to being completely destroyed in its long and turbulent history, falling from its exalted place as the capital of ancient China. Once during the Sui dynasty when the city was nearly razed and then renamed Shengzhou and then of course the infamous “Rape of Nanjing” by the Japanese Imperial forces in 1937 in which two thirds of the city was destroyed and over 300,000 citizens massacred.
And yet it endures.
After such a serious contemplation, I reluctantly left my spot. I looked down and laughed; a toadstool …in a Chinese garden.