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Vibrant lanterns illuminate the streets of Laomendong in Nanjing, China, during a festive celebration of the Dragon Year. (FF @ 200mm)

Exploring LaoMenDong: Nanjing’s Historical Oasis

or Discovering the historical charm of LaoMenDong in Nanjing.


Step into a world where the echoes of the past intertwine seamlessly with the rhythms of modernity. Join me on a fascinating journey through the heart of Nanjing’s rich history as we explore the gorgeous district of Lao Men Dong (老门东). LaoMenDong in Nanjing, which literally means “East of the Old Gate,” is a captivating district lodged amidst the bustling streets of China’s ancient capital. LaoMenDong beckons with its timeless charm and cultural charm. Let’s unravel the mysteries and uncover the hidden treasures that lie within this historical oasis.

The History and Significance of LaoMenDong

Travel back in time to the Eastern Wu period (222–280 A.D.) and witness the humble beginnings of LaoMenDong. Originally a modest neighbourhood, this historic district has flourished over the centuries into a bustling commercial centre. LaoMenDong has preserved its classical wood structures, offering a glimpse into the soul of ancient southeast Chinese villages. Despite centuries of change, LaoMenDong remains an example of Nanjing’s enduring heritage.

Key Attractions and Experiences

Within the labyrinthine lanes of LaoMenDong, a treasure trove of cultural riches awaits. Explore the hallowed halls of the Nanjing Painting and Calligraphy Academy and the Jinling Art Museum, where the city’s artistic legacy comes to life. Wander through the beauty of Zhan Yuan Garden, a Ming Dynasty masterpiece accessible with the Nanjing annual card, and lose yourself in its serene sensation. At sunset, be impressed by the fascinating 3D light show on the old city wall, which demonstrates the revitalisation of the district. And don’t forget to tantalize your taste buds with the local delicacies that line the bustling streets, from savoury stinky tofu to delectable tiny steamed buns.

Additionally, the entrance to LaoMenDong in Nanjing is free for all visitors, allowing everyone to partake in its historical and cultural offerings. In the west of LaoMenDong, you’ll also find a charming book store, offering a calm escape amidst the hustle and bustle of the district.

The Charm of Zhan Yuan Garden

Located in the heart of Nanjing, adjacent to the Fuzimiao (Confucius Temple) area, lies the exquisite Zhan Yuan Garden (瞻园). This serene retreat boasts a history spanning over six centuries, dating back to the Ming Dynasty.

One of the many delights of the small Zhan Yuan Garden is its accessibility through the Nanjing annual card, granting visitors free entry to this enchanting sanctuary. The garden is situated at No. 128 Zhan Yuan Road, just a short distance from the Fuzimiao area and other nearby attractions in southern Nanjing. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, it provides ample time for visitors to explore its peaceful environs and soak in the sights and sounds of nature. 

Meticulously designed during the Ming Dynasty, the garden’s winding paths, serene ponds, and elegant pavilions beckon visitors to immerse themselves in its timeless beauty. For photographers seeking inspiration, Zhan Yuan Garden is a true haven. Its harmonious blend of traditional architecture, reflective waters, and lush greenery creates a picturesque backdrop for capturing stunning images. Whether you’re drawn to the intricate details of the garden’s pavilions, the reflections dancing upon its still waters, or the interplay of light and shadow, this oasis offers endless opportunities for breathtaking photography. 

With the Nanjing annual card providing free access, this photogenic oasis is a great destination for any content creator exploring the city. The Zhan Yuan Garden is in general not a must-see destination, but if you own the Nanjing annual card, or if you need a calm break from the bustling streets of LaoMenDong it is a great retreat.

The Bookstore in LaoMenDong

In the western part of LaoMenDong, you’ll find a quaint bookstore tucked away amidst the ancient streets. It is a branche of The Librairie Avant-Garde bookstore. This hidden gem offers a peaceful retreat for book lovers and provides a charming contrast to the bustling energy of the surrounding area. Take a leisurely stroll through its shelves, browse the curated selection of titles, and perhaps find a literary treasure to accompany you on your journey through Nanjing’s historical oasis.

Nearby Attractions

Fool’s Garden

A hidden gem in Nanjing within the scenic area of Qinhuai, Fool’s Garden or Yuyuan (愚园) shines as a national 5A-level tourist attraction, enchanting visitors with its unparalleled beauty. 

Spanning a vast expanse of 33,600 square meters, this beautiful garden is a great example of the city’s rich cultural heritage. With a history dating back over 600 years, Fool’s Garden was originally owned by Xu Fu, a descendant of King Zhongshan Xu Da of the Ming Dynasty. Renamed Yuyuan, meaning “the garden of foolishness,” during the Qing Dynasty, it witnessed the passage of time under various owners, each leaving their mark on its splendour. 

Open year-round from 9 am to 5:30 pm, Fool’s Garden offers a serene escape from the bustling urban landscape, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its timeless charm.

Bailuzhou Park

A must-visit attraction in Nanjing in the southeast of Nanjing City, Bailuzhou Park (白鹭洲公园) is a verdant oasis that beckons with its natural beauty and calm atmosphere. Once the Ming Dynasty villa of the King of Song, this expansive park has evolved into a beloved destination for both tourists and locals. Open 24/7, it provides a sanctuary from the city’s hustle and bustle, allowing visitors to reconnect with nature amidst its lush surroundings. Home to a diverse array of plants and trees, including rare cherry blossom varieties, Bailuzhou Park is particularly enchanting during the springtime, when its cherry blossoms paint the landscape in hues of pink and white. As a highlight of the popular boat tour starting at Fuzimiao, visitors can also enjoy a unique perspective of Nanjing’s history and culture from the serene waters surrounding Bailuzhou Park.

Fuzimiao (Confucius Temple)

A cultural hub in Nanjing renowned as Nanjing’s Confucius Temple (南京夫子庙), Fuzimiao stands as a respected cultural landmark honouring the teachings of Confucius. Situated along the banks of the Qinhuai River in southern Nanjing City, this historic temple traces its origins back to 1034 and has undergone numerous renovations throughout the centuries. 

Today, it remains a cherished destination for travellers, boasting picturesque surroundings and a rich historical legacy. The temple complex features pedestrian shopping streets brimming with traditional and modern delights, inviting visitors to explore its restored buildings, including the iconic Dacheng Hall housing a remarkable collection of cultural artefacts. 

With varying entrance fees, Fuzimiao welcomes visitors from 8 am to 9 pm, offering ample opportunity to soak in its timeless beauty and cultural significance. For an unforgettable experience, be sure to visit the Jinliang Lantern Festival, held in the first lunar month, when the temple is adorned with vibrant lanterns, casting a spellbinding ambience.

The Confucius Temple in Nanjing, known as Fuzimiao, stands as a respected cultural landmark honouring the teachings of Confucius, much like the Confucius Temple in Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, which offers visitors the opportunity to dive deep into Confucian culture and wisdom.


As you venture through the captivating streets of LaoMenDong, you’ll find another historic gem just a stone’s throw away – the enchanting Xiao Xi Hu (小西湖), or “Small West Lake.” This area, once compared to the renowned West Lake in Hangzhou, has a rich past that has been carefully preserved and revitalized, offering visitors a unique glimpse into Nanjing’s cultural heritage.

The History and Significance of XiaoXiHu

During the Ming Dynasty, the famous playwright Xu Lin established a garden here, naming it “Kuai Yuan,” which garnered praise for its serene environment reminiscent of the West Lake. However, over time, residential development gradually encroached upon the original lake and scenic features of Xiao Xi Hu, transforming it into a densely populated old neighbourhood by the mid-20th century.

The XiaoXiHu Renovation Project

In 2015, the Qinhuai District of Nanjing designated XiaoXiHu as a key redevelopment project, to preserve the area’s historic character while also improving the living conditions and infrastructure. One notable project was the renovation of buildings on Madao Street, where the remains of a Ming Dynasty “Sanguantang” temple were discovered and incorporated into the design. The renovation transformed the former residential buildings into a mixed-use development, with public exhibition spaces to showcase the area’s cultural legacy. This successful blending of the past and present has contributed to the unique charm of the revitalized XiaoXiHu neighbourhood.

Culinary Treasures: Rolling in Dough Cafe

Accommodated within the renovated XiaoXiHu area, you’ll find a small but highly-rated cafe called “Rolling in Dough”. This cosy establishment is known for serving excellent cakes in a setting that perfectly complements the scenic ambience of the surrounding neighbourhood. 

The XiaoXiHu area, with its rich history, renovated buildings, and charming cafe, offers visitors a delightful complement to the lovely experiences found in the nearby LaoMenDong. Together, these two historic gems provide a multifaceted exploration of Nanjing’s cultural heritage.

Photo Opportunities and the Charm of Zhan Yuan Garden

For shutterbugs and photography enthusiasts, LaoMenDong is a veritable playground of visual joys. Capture the timeless elegance of ancient architecture against a backdrop of modernity, or immortalize the hustle and bustle of daily life in the vibrant streets. With every turn, a new composition presents itself, offering endless opportunities to encapsulate the essence of Nanjing’s rich heritage through the lens of your camera. 

In the heart of Nanjing, adjacent to the Fuzimiao (Confucius Temple) area, lies the exquisite Zhan Yuan Garden. With a history spanning over six centuries, this peaceful retreat offers a serene escape from the bustling city streets. Meticulously designed during the Ming Dynasty, the garden’s winding paths, serene ponds, and elegant pavilions beckon visitors to immerse themselves in its timeless beauty.

Moreover, for those seeking to infuse their photos with an extra touch of “authenticity”, nearby Hanfu shops offer a delightful opportunity. These establishments provide a stunning array of traditional Chinese clothing, allowing visitors to immerse themselves fully in the cultural heritage of the region. Donning these exquisite garments, you can transform yourself into a character from Nanjing’s rich history, enhancing the authenticity and allure of your photographic journey.

So, whether you’re a seasoned photographer or simply a lover of captivating landscapes, Zhan Yuan Garden invites you to unleash your creativity and capture the essence of its timeless beauty. With the added option of adorning yourself in Hanfu attire, your photos at LaoMenDong will not only reflect the picturesque surroundings but also embody the rich cultural legacy of Nanjing.


As we bid adieu to the enchanting streets of LaoMenDong in Nanjing, let us carry with us the echoes of its timeless beauty and the echoes of its enduring charm. This historical oasis, where the past intertwines seamlessly with the present, serves as a poignant reminder of Nanjing’s indomitable spirit. Whether you’re delighted by the ornate architecture, the serene gardens, or the bustling energy of the local markets, LaoMenDong offers a multifaceted exploration of the city’s rich cultural heritage. 

As you continue your journey through Nanjing, be sure to share your experiences with me on Instagram. I’d love to see the stunning shots you capture of LaoMenDong, Zhan Yuan Garden, and the other enchanting attractions that dot this ancient capital. Together, let’s celebrate the timeless charm of Nanjing and inspire others to uncover the hidden gems that make this city such a tempting destination. 

So, dear traveller, pack your camera and your sense of wonder and let the magic of LaoMenDong guide you on your next unforgettable adventure. The memories you create and the stories you uncover will be a record of the enduring character of this remarkable city.

For those seeking additional travel ideas and reports, you can explore them here.

Frederic Konkel

My name is Frederic B. Konkel and to capture landscapes and cityscapes is a big passion of mine. I'm currently back in Berlin, Germany. I love to explore new places and I'm using my cameras to document these moments. On F.B.K. Photography I showcase a few impressions of my captured moments from around the world.