Explore the islands, temples, bonsai museum and beautiful flower- and tree-filled gardens of a huge park with an ancient history.
The lake in the center of the huge Xuan Wu Lake Park is crisscrossed with bridges and dotted with islands, which you can spend hours exploring. Walk among the cherry blossoms and weeping willows of the gardens and enjoy the architecture of pagodas and pavilions.
The beauty and charm of this 1,097-acre (444-hectare) park dates back to its days as an imperial garden and hunting ground, from A.D. 222 to A.D. 859. It is named after a black water dragon thought to have been seen guarding the lake.
Stroll along the edge of the lake and cross the bridges to visit Xuan Wu’s five islands. Each one is filled with statues, temples, pavilions and shrubs, such as pines and weeping willows. Every August Liang Island stands out for its impressive annual chrysanthemum display, with fantastical sculptures created with the flowers. Also on the island is a bonsai museum and a goldfish pond. Cui Isle is noted for its pine and cypress trees and bamboo plants.
Rent a boat and paddle across the lake, at the center of which is a huge statue of Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy, surrounded by sculptures of happy children.
The park is very popular with Nanjing locals on the weekends, so if you want to avoid crowds come during the week. You can even enjoy the park during the evenings. It is well lit and is a favorite with joggers, dancers and tai chi practitioners at this time of day. A particularly good time to see the park is in spring when everything is in bloom.
Xuan Wu Lake Park covers a large area and there are several entrances, some of which are close to public transportation connections. The park is open every day and while admission is free, there is a charge to visit the islands. After your visit, go to the nearby Ming Dynasty Nanjing City Wall. Walk along the top for a great view over the lake and the islands.