While surfing the Internet, the appreciation of inexplicable behaviour or circumstances has become something of a catharsis. Such confusion or phenomena might address people’s curiosity, but they also act as powerful “happy agents” for this serious life.
Probably best to start with food, then. Ask a local, “What’s good to eat in Nanjing?”. They will likely shake their head and respond, “Just what is there to eat in Nanjing?”, and then wait in line for half an hour. Then there is the fact that at some point in Nanjing’s past, the length of the line became a gastronomic standard.
For Nanjingers, gastronomy also goes by another name; duck. As something of a citywide obsession, local firm Guihuaya has no doubt contributed to the phenomenon, to the extent that visitors to Nanjing more or less feel obliged to buy one of the shiny bags of osmanthus duck for friends back home.
Yet, the streets of Nanjing are littered with shops offering all kinds of stewed foods, vendors that locals universally refer to as the “duck shops”. But ask a local which is the best in Nanjing, and chances are the reply will go, “The one downstairs from my house”.
However, the most confusing of all is the Nanjing talking point that chickens can be eaten as embryos. The local delicacy, if it can be termed such, is the “wangjidan”, a common find in the shabbier alleys of Nanjing. People crack open the eggshell to extract half a hairy baby chicken with head and claws evident. Said to be a blood tonic that provides beauty, health and virility, the foetus is sucked, chewed and swallowed by the people of Nanjing, before they say to their stunned friends from other cities, “Come on, have a try”.
Time to change the subject. Many of Nanjing’s most iconic locations have been assigned hidden functions and identities by local people. In no particular order;
- Zifeng Tower; a reference for the extent of today’s pollution
- Xuanwu Lake; a unit of measure for heavy rain
- Lao Mendong; an escape from Fuzimiao (Confucius Temple).
- Librairie Avant-Garde; a scenic spot
- Nanjing University; ditto
- Southeast University; Sipailou Film and Television Base
- Nanjing Forestry University; Cherry Blossom viewing spot
- Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics; the canteen for all
- Sanjiang College; Snack Street
Confusion surrounding Nanjing locations does not stop there. We close with two of the best known:
On Purple Mountain, the walk of a couple of hundred metres from Soong May-ling’s palace to Shixiang Lu takes 2 hours.
In Xinjiekou, when facing the statue of Sun Yat-sen, Zhongshan Nan Lu is to your back, Zhongshan Dong Lu is on your right, Zhongshan Lu is ahead and Zhongshan Bei Lu is ahead and to the left. What is Hanzhong Lu? Why is there no Zhongshan Xi Lu?!