Presidential Palace, Nanjing

If you Google “what to do in Nanjing”, the first 5 places that come up are Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum (been there), Ming Xiaoling (done that), Xuanwu Lake (one of my faves), Purple Mountain (on my list!), and the Presidential Palace. After we move out of Nanjing, I’ll create my own list of must-see sites, but for now I need to keep checking them off my list!

Click the image below to watch the Presidential Palace vlog on my YouTube channel!

Presidential Palace Nanjing China history brief reader's digest for dummies complex taiping rebellion center of the city

What Is The Presidential Palace?

The Presidential Palace is the historic center of Nanjing. Today it’s a museum about the history of modern China. The Presidential Palace is a huge complex of buildings, monuments, exhibits, gift shops, ponds, temples, gardens, walls, and more. Before it was a museum it housed emperors and government officials and it was almost completely destroyed multiple times.

What To Do When You Get There

The grounds of this place are huge, gorgeous, and there’s TONS of hidden pathways and sculptures scattered around. The best thing to do? Walk, explore, get lost, and enjoy! It’s even more fun to walk around the Presidential Palace if you have at least a general sense of its history. Keep reading to learn all about it!

Quick History Refresher

Nanjing was the capital of China at different points through history and it was almost completely destroyed in 1853 during the Taiping Rebellion. The last Chinese dynasty ended in 1912. The Republic of China was in charge after that until 1949, and finally the Communist Party took over in 1949.

Really Brief History of the Presidential Palace

Built by a duke in the Ming Dynasty, then used by dynastic government officials. Destroyed in the 1850s, rebuilt, destroyed again in the 1860s, rebuilt, then used by modern government officials from 1927 to the late 80s with a brief stint in Japanese hands in the 30s. Finally in the 1980s it was turned into a museum.

Better Brief History Of Nanjing’s Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace was built by a duke in the Ming Dynasty. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) it became the office of a really high-up government official who was in charge of 3 local provinces (that’s a lot of land).

In 1853 during the Taiping Rebellion, most of the palace was destroyed. Afterwards, it was expanded and converted into a palace for the leader of the Rebellion.

Just 11 years later in 1864, Qing forces took it back and the Commander had it destroyed yet again to build a massive new residence and huge government buildings for the Qing government, Neoclassical edition.

The Republic of China started using the palace in 1927 and transformed the grounds into the HQ of the Nationalist Government.

In the late 1930s, the Presidential Palace was occupied by a political leader who collaborated with invading Japanese forces during the War.

In 1945, the Republic re-occupied the Palace, but that was short-lived because just 4 years later, near the end of the Chinese civil war, Communist forces captured it.

The Communist Party used it for government functions until the the late 1980s when the government decided to transform it into what it is today: a modern history museum.

That’s the most tumultuous history I’ve EVER heard. Comment below if you know of one that’s crazier!

Thanks for reading 🙂 Talk to you soon,




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