Nanjing: A Cultural and Historical Guide


"Joseph Brodsky wasn’t speaking of Nanjing when he wrote, "There are places where history is inescapable, like a highway accident—places where geography provokes history." But he might as well have been. The geographical features of this area have invariably been a principal determinant of what was built, and when; of how the city was entered and exited and lived in; of who won and who lost in the great game of empire. There are four main elements that give shape and structure to Nanjing. Two of them are as old as the planet itself: the Yangtze River, which by a quirk of topography here delimits the city to the west and northwest; and Purple Mountain, which towers over it to the east. The other two elements began as natural structures, and later were altered by human hands: the Qinhuai River, whose course was changed not to benefit Nanjing but to harm it; and the city wall, which began as a simple stone bluff on the west side of present-day Nanjing."


"I can't imagine anyone better suited than Roy Kesey to present Nanjing to the world. Focusing on the city's long history and vibrant cultural scene, and possessed of the 'magic talent of releasing flowers from his pen,' Kesey portrays the city vividly. As he notes, the mythological animal known as the bixie, with its head raised proudly to heaven, is the key to understanding the past and present of Nanjing. Both visitors and armchair travelers will find this book a joy to read."
Zhang Lijia, author of four books including Frog in a Well and Socialism is Great!
"In this well-informed and beautifully observed book, Nanjing at last has a guide worthy of its rich history and contemporary vibrancy. An elegant, engaging writer, Roy Kesey is the ideal guide to the mighty city on the Yangtze. His book avoids potted recitation of facts in favor of compelling historical anecdotes, scholarly quotes, and profiles of historical figures that breathe life into Nanjing's many tourist sites and inform its unique modern character. Leavened with humor and telling details, this book should inspire many visits to Nanjing."
Adam Pillsbury, editor of The Insider's Guide to Beijing and Beijing Excursion Guide
"For any traveler, student, teacher, or resident in Nanjing, Roy Kesey's book is an invaluable guide to what could otherwise be an overwhelming amount of sites to see. He gives unbiased information, logically presented in a compact and readable format, allowing readers to gain a firm grasp on the history and culture of one of the world’s great historic capitals without being bombarded by facts. Recommended as required reading for before, during, and after a visit to any of Nanjing's sites."
Julie Sisk, editor of MAP Magazine
"Nanjing was the first city in China that I ever visited and it left a deep impression on me. This book captures many of the first and subsequent impressions that I gained of this great city, the Southern Capital of China on the mighty Yangtze River. (...) The author has done a fabulous job of researching the city's history, culture and attractions. It's a feast of information on one of China's greatest tourist cities."
Alastair Morrison, author of Tourism: Bridges across Continents


"One of China's most fascinating cities, Nanjing has a vibrant past that has made it of unwavering importance in the affairs of emperors and revolutionaries throughout the centuries. Many times the capital of dynasties, many times overcome by foreign and domestic aggressors, Nanjing has survived as a curiosity of China's history. Roy Kesey's new book takes away the veil for contemporary visitors. Not merely a travel guide with listings and reviews, it examines the city as a cultural artifact, digging out the past from every corner. (This) meticulously detailed volume brings this extraordinary city to the forefront and for the first time presents a thorough examination of the city for a Western audience."
China Book International
"This book provides an insightful look at the complex history of this former capital and will help visitors to gain a comprehensive understanding of the geographic and political factors that have shaped the city. It is the perfect travel companion for a visitor who seeks to uncover the intricacies of Nanjing's history. With its glossy illustrations it also makes a great read for the armchair traveler."
Beijing Review