Nanjing has a long and harried past dating back some 5,000 years. With a strategic location along the Yangtze River's southern bank, Nanjing has seen dynasties and conflict come and go, and has been built and rebuilt each time. The Qin and Tang dynasties brought period of prosperity for Nanjing, yet during the Sui dynasty, the city was destroyed along with its historical heritage.
Not until 1356 when Zhu Yuanzhang led a peasant rebellion against the Mongol Yuan dynasty did Nanjing see a period of glory. Zhu, who took on the name Hongwu, became the first emperor of the Ming dynasty and made Nanjing his capital. He constructed a huge palace and massive walls around the city. The Ming City Wall is over 20 miles and is the longest city wall in the world. What is interesting about the wall is that it follows the contours of the land instead of the traditional square layout. The Tomb of Hongwu sits nearby, though it was heavily damaged by the Taiping. The third Ming emperor, Yongle, moved the capital back to Beijing in 1420.
However, this wall was much too long to defend from so far away and the city became the Taiping capital during the Taiping Rebellion from 1851-1864. The Taiping demolished the Ming imperial palace (which served as the model for the Forbidden City in Beijing) and built their own, which was subsequently demolished by the Qing. The city would later serve as the Kuomintang capital before being "liberated" by the Communists. The Mausoleum of Sun Yat-sen is located here, as he swore to make Nanjing the Kuomintang capital.
In the 20th century, Nanjing is most known for one of the worst war atrocities with Japan's 'Rape of Nanjing', which killed as many as 300,000 people. Today, Nanjing is an appealing city with a strong sense of history.