Purple Mountain

In May last year we had 16 days in China – most of that time was spent in Nanjing. It was hot and humid and disgustingly smoggy – apparently it gets REALLY REALLY hot & humid and REALLY disgustingly smoggy in July & August!!  Nanjing is one of the three hottest cities in China with temperatures regularly over 105 F in summer – but then it drops to 19F in winter – so quite a range.  

So …  because the astro-dweeb was there working on a project with a Purple Mountain scientist he went to work in the observatory offices each morning with our host Jianghui, and I got to roam the city on my own & loved every minute. Then, on many afternoons Jianghui took us to places he thought were interesting or must-see in Nanjing. One such outing was a trip up Purple Mountain.  Purple Mountain is China's first modern observatory – started in 1929, completed 1934 – and one of only 3 in China.  It is considered the "cradle of the modern astronomy in China'.

There is a cable car which goes to the top of the mountain but I have a fear of cable cars, made in China, swinging free of their wire and hurtling down some mountainous gully – so I chose to walk up. It only took about 25 minutes to walk to the top but it was grueling in the heat and smog!   

  Purple Mountain is about 870 feet high and on a clear day you would be able to see Nanjing.  I'm not sure when they last had a clear day!  

There is a museum with astronomical displays which have descriptions in Chinese -  Jianghui translated them for us and pointed out what he thought were the more important things – like the meteorite that Chairman Mao had touched in the 1960's!  Many of these instruments and artifacts are actually replicas as the originals were stolen by the British, French, Germans, Americans and later the Japanese.

This is an Armillary Sphere, designed by Zhang Heng in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), and used to locate celestial bodies and define their movements. It is an impressive work of art. Its four poles are engraved with entwining dragons and the four sides of the base are cast with flowers and animals. The bronze one kept here was made in 1437 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  Using an instrument like this, China was the first to determine that there are 365.25 days in a year.

This is a Celestial Globe – Invented by Zhang Heng, an astronomer in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 A.D.-220 A.D.).  The one displayed here was made during the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1911). Measuring one meter in diameter, it is inlaid with 1449 stars, the ecliptic and the equator. Celestial globes were used to represent the stars and constellations of the night sky and record their positions with respect to each other and a co-ordinate system.

Nowadays only Solar Studies research is performed on the Solar Telescope at Purple Mountain as the air quality is bad and there is light pollution and radio noise from Nanjing.  There are 4 remote observing stations under the auspices of Purple Mountain: Delingha, Qingdao, Ganyu and the Xuyi station where we spent 3 days.

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9 responses

  1. The smog is amazing – I don't know how people live in it. We did see a lot of cyclists wearing masks. A couple of days I found it really oppressive – there just seems to be no air to breath. Last year the World Bank released a study which said that 750,000 Chinese die from pollution related illnesses a year – the Chinese government conceded that 400,000 died…….. Pollution deaths

  2. It is funny how he didn’t mention the Cultural Revolution in
    china where all these old things were smashed and people disappeared who was
    traditional a trades people! A very large amount of stuff went to other
    countries to be saved as well as to keep them from being destroyed, and they
    accepted any cash for culture.

    But I am a bit jealous it sounds like it would have been a
    great time wondering around exploring (killing your lungs), but with all the
    deadly creatures in Australia why be afraid of a Chinese cable car, it worked
    all right for the first second and third dynasty Ha, Ha! I have watched some
    travel shows and I think I did see that cable car in the blue mountain, smart

    Love your Photos!

  3. PS: the way they have been studying pollution much of it
    from China makes its way across the ocean to the USA so you are probably still
    breathing the pollution and smog from china today!

  4. It's such a pity that nowadays pollution is affecting so many countries. Otherwise we could really enjoy nature's beauty a little more. Great photos though! It must have been quite an experience.

  5. Yes many awful things have happened in China's history from both outside and internal forces. It is interesting how a lot of the Chinese people's perceptions of their history are different to what ours are of their country. Even today much is censored. LOL the idea of still breathing their pollution – I am not getting the great cuisine smells though! I am going to dig out my food photos soon – we ate some amazingly good food there – not all of it recognisable! 🙂

  6. It really was a wonderful experience – the people were just so friendly – I'm sure they were laughing at me a lot of the time but they did it kindly! The pollution in Nanjing was bad but nothing compared to Shanghai – there I just wanted to stay in the hotel!! LOL. When I look back through my photos I see that we never saw a blue sky – there is just this haze over everything. As a lot of Chinese will never get to see anything different, that is sort of sad!

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