Xuanwu Lake Park – Nanjing Shi, China - Atlas Obscura

Xuanwu Lake Park

Nanjing Shi, China

Once an imperial lake garden, anyone can now visit this city park.  

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Located at the foot of Zhongshan Mountain in Nanjing, Xuanwu is a scenic location near Nanjing railway station. Xuanwu Lake is one of the “Three Great Lakes of Jiangnan,” which contains five islets and was the largest imperial lake garden in China’s history.

According to legends, Emperor Sun Quan settled in the Nanjing area and had the lake created. The lake was then named for a black dragon, believed to be a water god. The dragon was said to resemble a cross between a tortoise and a snake.

The park is also called “Military Rehearsal Lake,” because it was often the site of naval battle exercises. The main entrance gate to the park was also the site of the Xuanwu Gate Incident, a palace coup for the throne of the Tang Dynasty that took place in July 626. The incident occurred when Prince Li Shimin and his followers murdered Crown Prince Li Jiancheng and Prince Li Yuanji.

In 1911, the historic lake was made into a public park laid out in traditional Chinese fashion, with bridges connecting the different islands, tearooms, pagodas, and formal gardens. Visitors can see both the ancient wall of Nanjing, along with the modern skyscrapers in the background. 

Know Before You Go

Line 1 Xuanwu Lake Park(玄武湖公园) Station Exit 3/4. Line 1 Nanjing Railway Station(南京火车站) Station Exit 1/4. 

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