The Purple Mountain, at the eastern edge of the Nanjing city, is home to many of Nanjing's historical sights. A full day is needed to explore all the sites. The newest addition to the field of sights is the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. After Sun Yat sen, revered as the leading force in bringing down the Qing dynasty, died in 1925, his burial ground, fit for an emperor, was built. Pass through massive gates and climb 392 marble steps and you'll arrive in front of the mausoleum with white walls and a bright blue-tiled roof. A larger than life statue of Sun Yat-sen, appropriate for a man whose adventures included being kidnapped by Qing agents in London, greets you in the entrance to the main hall. Inscribed on the wall are his three principles for national salvation nationalism, democracy and people's livelihood. In the round crypt is Sun Yat-sen's casket with a carved statue of him reclining. Behind the tomb is a small garden and a photographic exhibition from the early years of the Chinese republic. There's a great view over the lush green Purple Mountain from the top steps that lead up to the mausoleum that is, when the weather permits it. The hills are often obscured by clouds and mist that lends the area an enchanting atmosphere.
The Linggu Temple, a short walk from the mausoleum, rents bicycles; an ideal way to go from sight to sight around Purple Mountain. The centerpiece of the Linggu Temple is the 60m tall Linggu Pagoda. Moved here from the Tomb of Hongwu in 1381, it was destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion and rebuilt again in 1911 to commemorate those who died fighting to overthrow the Qing dynasty. The only remaining building on the premises is the Beamless Hall, 22m high and 54m wide, and was built solely with bricks.
East of Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum is another mausoleum, the Tomb of Hongwu of the rebel turned emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang. He was born a peasant, had a stint as a monk, turned rebel to eventually become the first emperor of the Ming dynasty under the reign title Hongwu. The 13 other emperors of the Ming dynasty are buried near Beijing in the Ming Tombs. The mausoleum was built between 1381 and 1383 and required over 100,000 labourers. Of most interest here is the "spirit way" leading up to the mausoleum. 12 pairs of stone animals flank the path; elephants, camels, horses and mythical beasts, a style also used at the well know Ming Tombs, north of Beijing.
If time allows for it the Purple Mountain Observatory is worth a visit if for nothing else but for the view. It was built in 1929 and there's a cable car ride to the top, 350m above sea level.