Being one of the four ancient capitals of China, Nanjing has always been a cultural center attracting intellectuals from all over the country. In the Tang and Song dynasties, Nanjing was a place where poets gathered and composed poems reminiscent of its luxurious past; during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the city was the official imperial examination center (Jiangnan Examination Hall) for the Jiangnan region, again acting as a hub where different thoughts and opinions converged and thrived.
Nanjing, with a total land area of 6,598 km (2,548 sq mi), is situated in the heartland of the drainage area of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and in the Yangtze River Delta, one of the largest economic zones of China. The Yangtze River flows past the west side and then the north side of Nanjing City, while the Ningzheng Ridge surrounds the north, east and south sides of the city. The city is 650 km (400 mi) southeast of Luoyang, 900 km (560 mi) south-southeast of Beijing, 270 km (170 mi) west-northwest of Shanghai, and 1,200 km (750 mi) east-northeast of Chongqing. The Yangtze River flows downstream from Jiujiang, Jiangxi, through Anhui and Jiangsu to the East China Sea. The northern part of the lower Yangtze drainage basin is the Huai River basin and the southern part is the Zhe River basin; they are connected by the Grand Canal east of Nanjing. The area around Nanjing is called Xiajiang (下江, Downstream River) region, with Jianghuai dominant in the northern part and Jiangzhe dominant in the southern part. The region is also well known as Dongnan (東南, South East, the Southeast) and Jiangnan (江南, and River South, South of Yangtze).
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