Seven centuries ago, Marco Polo pronounced Hangzhou "the finest, most splendid city in the world . . . where so many pleasures may be found that one fancies oneself to be in Paradise." Hangzhou's claim to paradise has always been centered on its famous West Lake (Xi Hu),surrounded on three sides by verdant hills. The islets and temples, pavilions and gardens, causeways and arched bridges of this small lake (about 5km/3 miles across and 14km/8 3/4 miles around) have constituted the supreme example of lakeside beauty in China ever since the Tang Dynasty, when Hangzhou came into its own with the completion of the Grand Canal (Da Yunhe) in A.D. 609. Hangzhou reached its zenith during the Southern Song Dynasty (A.D. 1127-1279), when it served as China's capital.
In 2003, much to the horror of purists, Xi Hu was enlarged in the western section with an additional causeway along its new western shoreline. New sights, shops, and restaurants were added to the eastern and southern shores. But the news is not all bad. Away from the commercial eastern edges of the lake, and especially in the surrounding hills and countryside, it's still possible to find pockets of peace and quiet. In the last few years, the Hangzhou government has also been positioning the city as a resort destination worthy of a visit in its own right. While this has meant more hotels being built and inevitably more traffic jams, there are also a few more worthwhile attractions for visitors, including a National Wetland Park. An overnight visit will allow you to appreciate more fully Hangzhou's fabled beauty.
Renowned Hangzhou Tourist Attractions
"Ripping water shimmering on sunny day,
Misty mountains shrouded the rain;
Plain or gaily decked out like Xizi;
West Lake is always alluring."
------------- Su Dongpo
These are the words composed by the famous Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo (960-1127) when he compared the West Lake to Xi Zi, the most beautiful woman in ancient China. These poetic sentiments leave one in no doubt of the glory of the scenery that inspired them.
With an average depth of just five feet the lake comprises five distinct sections. The largest part is known as the Outer Lake and it is bounded by the North Inner Lake, Yuehu Lake, West Inner Lake and Lesser South Lake. Held in the embrace of hilly peaks on three sides, this water wonderland has been an attraction for centuries and it is small wonder that it was a favorite imperial retreat. The lake and its environs have all the elements of a traditional Chinese garden but on a grand scale. The natural setting of strangely shaped peaks, serene forests and springs, dense foliage and a myriad of blossoms especially in springtime are enhanced by a treasury of sculpture and architectural features. Whatever the season, the panorama is pleasing to the eye and the nuances of light shade together with the moods of the weather present an ever-changing picture that justifiably has been described as 'intoxicating'.
Temple of Soul's Retreat (Lingyin Temple)
The Lingyin Temple is one of the favorite destinations of Buddhist pilgrims as well as those who want to learn more about Buddhism. But it is also very famous among tourists who just want a quiet place to go to. Flanked by mountains on both sides, the Lingyin Temple has a hidden away feel to it. But aside from contemplating while walking around the temple grounds, guests at the temple can also do some sightseeing on the side, thanks to many sights of interest that can be found in the area.
The temple itself is divided into different halls. The first hall, which greets the entrance, holds a historical tablet with words inscribed by Emperor Kangxi himself, the late emperor of the Qing Dynasty. The king was said to have been inspired by the quaint view of the temple shrouded in the mists of the trees that surround it; because of this, he dubbed it as the Cloud Forest Buddhist Temple.
Six Harmonies Pagoda (Liuhe Pagoda)
While there is a story spread among folks. In ancient time, the god of Qiantang River, Dragon King who was very fierce and brutal and always brought rainstorms and billowed to the farmland of the farmers living nearby. The farmland was always swallowed. There was a fishing child called Liuhe. His father was drowned while his mother was swept away by the billow.
Luihe was so distressed that he threw big stones into the river to calm it. The Dragon King could not stand for the shaking of the Crystal Palace, so he paid a lot of money and treasure to reach an agreement with Liuhe.
Liuhe put forward that the Dragon King must set his mother free and not bring any disaster to the people. From then on, the people nearby lived a tranquil life. In the story, the Liuhe Pagoda was built on the hill where Liuhe threw stones for appreciating him.
The Liuhe Pagoda is a beautiful and tranquil place. When walking on the 200 wood stairs and climbing the pagoda, travelers will see lots of bird and fish sculpture on the wall. The red and blue shades used for the colors in these paintings and roof brackets are brilliant.
While walking through the narrow path up to the top of the pagoda, the culture of ancient Chinese architecture is a light spot.
Thousand Islets Lake
Thousand Islets Lake, located within Chun’an County of Hangzhou City in Zhejiang Province, is China’s first artificial lake built in 1959 as well as China’s largest national park. It covers the area of about 573 square kilometers, which is over 100 times larger than West Lake in Hangzhou. The lake has the extreme depth of 117 meters and the average depth of 31 meters, with the water visibility ranging from 7 to 12 meters. Due to its favorable environmental protection, the water quality of Thousand Islets Lake ranks first among that of those rivers of lakes in China. Thousand Islets Lake go its name due to its 1,078 islets in the lake. Thousand Islets Lake has the largest number of islets in the world. Thousand Islets Lake is one of the 44 State-level scenic spots in China. It forms a travel network together with Wes Lake, Mt. Huang, Taihu Lake and Mt. Wuyi. Thousand Islets Lake Scenic Area is rich in scenery resources with crystal water and various islets with different sizes and forms.
There are several ways to tour the lake. Tourists can go sightseeing around the lake by bike, which takes about 2 days for the whole trip. Besides, many tourists will choose to take a cruise boast to travel around the lake and go sightseeing.