Overview of Hangzhou West lake
West Lake is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou, China. It is divided into five sections by three causeways. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake.
Hangzhou's premier tourist attraction, West Lake and its surrounding gardens, hills, rockeries, temples, pagodas and parks have for centuries inspired poets, officials and tourists with their beauty. West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics, and it has also been among the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden designers. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, described as having "influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries" and reflecting "an idealized fusion between humans and nature".
This beauty pulls an estimated 12 million domestic tourists and half a million foreign tourists annually making it—and, consequentially, Hangzhou—one of China's most tourist-heavy locales.
West Lake is located in the western area of Hangzhou City's center. There are dozens of lakes called West Lake worldwide, but "West Lake" usually refers to the Hangzhou West Lake. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides. The average depth of West Lake is 0.8 meters, and the capacity is about 14,290,000 cubic meters. The lake is divided by Gu Shan, Bai, Su and Yanggong Causeways into five areas. Ordered by their areas, they are Outer West Lake, West Inner Lake, North Inner Lake, Little South Lake and Yue Lake. "Outer West Lake" is the largest. "Gu Shan" or Gu Hill is the largest natural island in the lake. Su & Bai Causeways run cross the lake. Three small man-made islands, "Xiao Ying Zhou", "Hu Xin Ting", "Ruan Gong Dun" , lie in the center of Outer West Lake. Thus, the basic layout is "one hill, two causeways, three islands, and five lakes".
West Lake is not only famous for its picturesque landscape, it is also associated with many scholars, national heroes and revolutionary martyrs, thus embracing many aspects of Chinese culture. In addition, many ancient buildings, stone caves and engraved tablets in surrounding areas are among the most cherished national treasures of China, with significant artistic value
History & Background
The earliest recorded name for West Lake was the "Wu Forest River" (武林水). The Book of Han's "Geography Column" says, "Qiantang, affiliated to the western governor general. Wu Forest Mountain (Wǔlínshān) is the origin of the Wu Forest River. Running east into the sea, it covers 830 li" (roughly, 350 km or 220 mi). Other former names include the "Qian River", "Qiantang Lake", "Mingsheng Lake", "Jinniu Lake", "Shihan Lake", "Shang Lake", "Lianyan Lake", "Fangsheng Pond", "Xizi Lake", "Gaoshi Lake", "Xiling Lake", "Meiren Lake", "Xianzhe Lake", and "Mingyue Lake". But only two names were widely accepted in history and recorded in historical documents. One is "Qiantang Lake" , once an inlet of the Qiantang River, it was written Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first ruler of imperial China, moored his boat at what is today West Lake on his way to the sea.
The short-lived Sui dynasty is noted for the great engineering works which it accomplished during its brief existence. After AD 610, the Jiangnan Canal was opened and connected to the North Canal. Thus, five major rivers of China (the Hai, Yellow, Huai, Yangtze, and Qiantang) were all were connected: this facilitated transportation to and from Hangzhou and thus boosted the regional economy. Tourism in Hangzhou also started to boom.
In the Tang dynasty, West Lake had an area of roughly 10.8 square kilometers. The western and southern parts of the lake all extended to the foot of West Hill. The northeastern part stretched to Wulin Gate area. Pilgrims could take the boat to the hill-foot and walk up to the hill to worship. Due to the ongoing aggradation of the lake, together with the virtual lack of any hydraulic projects, in those days, the lake would flood after heavy rains and dry up during long droughts.
Attempting to control the water in the Tang Dynasty during the late eighth century, governor Li Mi built wells and conduits to send water from the lake into surrounding farmlands. Later, famed poet and governor Bai Juyi built dykes and dams and had the Bai Causeway, named after it's creator, built between Broken Bridge and Solitary Island (Gu Shan). Another major causeway named for its poet-governor creator, the Su Causeway, was built from mud gathered by a massive dredging of West Lake by Su Shi in the Song Dynasty during the late 11th century.
Song dynasty(The Northern Song and The Southern Song)
Over three hundred years later, in the beginning of the Song dynasty's Yuanyou era (1086–1094), another great poet, Su Shi (also known as Su Dongpo), came to Hangzhou to serve as its governor. At that time, the farmers suffered greatly drought again, due to overgrowth of the weeds at the bottom of the lake clogging the irrigation ducts. He ordered dredging of the lake and piled up all the mud into another causeway, in the style of Bai Causeway, but much wider and nearly three times as long: he also planted willow trees along its banks.
This causeway was later named after him as the "Su Causeway". There are six bridges along the 2.6 km Su Causeway (蘇堤),and they are called seperately Yingbo(映波）,Suolan（锁澜）,Wangshan（望山）,Yadi（压堤）,Dongpu（东浦）,Kuahong（跨虹） Bridge,which all symbolize the characristics of the bridge itself and also expose the structural beauty and its colorful connotation. "Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring 蘇堤春曉" is one of the attractions.
In the Yuan dynasty, West Lake was still socially thriving, with a population full of exuberance for singing and dancing. Volume 23 of the Book of Yuan says, in the 2nd year of the Zhida era (1309), "in Hangzhou, Jiang-Zhe area, during half a year there were more than 1,200 foreign visitors. Foreigners Sangwu and Baoheding brought lions, panthers, crows and falcons. They stayed for 27 days. People and animals ate meat of more than 1,300 jin." Increasing number of businessmen and travelers from countries of Turkestan and western Europe came to visit Hangzhou. The most famous among them was Venetian explorer Marco Polo, who complimented Hangzhou in his travel notes as "the most splendid heavenly city in the world".
In the later Yuan Dynasty and beginning of the Ming Dynasty, people attributed the collapse of the Southern Song Dynasty to the West Lake, because the upper class and emperors indulge themselves into the melody and wine with the sceneries of the lake. Therefore, people and the govern's didn't want to make it clean and thriving in case that this kind of thing happened again.[clarification needed] But later in the Ming dynasty, Hangzhou began to restore its prosperity in the Xuande and Zhengtong eras (1426–1449). Then, the local government kept a close watch on West Lake.
The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors of the Qing dynasty toured South China and stopping by Hangzhou many times; which helped to expedite the revamping and rehabilitation of West Lake. The Kangxi Emperor visited Hangzhou five times, and wrote the names of "Ten Scenic Spots of West Lake" selected in the Southern Song dynasty.
The local governor then inscribed the emperor's handwriting onto stelae and built pavilions over them. Thereafter those scenes such as "Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds" and "Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn" acquired fixed locations for appreciation. During the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, "Eighteen Scenic Sites of West Lake" had developed into a new nomenclature together with enriched tourism resources. The Qianlong Emperor visited Hangzhou six times, composing poems as well as erecting stelae for the "Ten Scenic Spots".
West Lake, which were pounced upon by local officials who erected steles carved with replicas of the royal handwriting in the appropriate spots.
Republican era to the end of the 20th century
After the establishment of the Republic of China, renovation continued and resulted in the building of numerous parks around the lake. One such park, formerly the imperial hideaway Solitary Island (Gu Shan), was opened to the public and populated with monuments like the tomb of Qiu Jin.
Traditional Top Ten Scenes of West lake Hangzhou:
Traditionally, there are ten best-known scenic spots on the Xī Hú, each remembered by a four-character epithet. Collectively, they are known as the "Ten Scenes of Xī Hú" (10 Scenic Spots in Xī Hú 西湖十景). Each is marked by a stela with the epithet written in the calligraphy of the Qianlong Emperor. They are:
Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring tops the list of the ten best known sights in Hangzhou. The causeway was built during the Northern Song Dynasty by Su Dongpo (1037-1101), a great scholar and famous poet, and was named after him. Stretching 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles), it includes six bridges and is heavily sheltered by green vegetation.
When spring comes, with the lakeside sparkling in the morning dew, birds cheerfully chirping among swaying willow branches, the scent of peach blossoms wafting through the air, you'll question whether you’re in the midst of paradise.
Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷)
This particular scene has earned its name from the fact that it had an abundance of lotus plants growing along its shores, which was known as Crooked Courtyard. This typical West Lake scene has earned its fame since the Southern Song Dynasty, when the lakeside area with an abundant growth of lotus off its shores was known as Crooked Courtyard, and was the location of a brewery.
People said the smell of lotus flowers and wine blended by the cool lake breezes was intoxicating. Nowadays the brewery is gone, and the area has been turned into a big park, but plenty of lotus plants still bloom off its shores. They stand gracefully erect in the lake, as if they knew they had visitors coming to admire their beauty.
Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月)
This scene is seen from the western end of Bai Causeway. The teahouse with its cement terrace bounded on three sides by water, became one of the traditional places to view West Lake, especially on Mid-Autumn night when the moon is full and bright, so it was named as "Autumn Moon on Calm Lake". This scenic spot covers an area of 6000 square meters (7176 square yards). Various garden plants and flowers intermingle with pavilions and platforms.
Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (斷橋殘雪)
The most romantic, in origin, of the ten scenic sites is surely the one called Melting Snow on Broken Bridge. According to legend, Broken Bridge, which is not really broken, but is a traditional arched stone bridge, is the site where two lovers, Xu Xian and a beautiful maiden, who is actually a white snake, met and fell madly in love. In early spring, when the snow begins to melt, it melts on one side of the bridge first, due the fact that the other side is in shade, which gives the bridge a split image. Viewed from a distance, it looks as if one half of the bridge has been ripped off, since the snowy side blends perfectly in with the surrounding landscape (hence the bridge's name)
Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
The stone arched bridge is at the eastern end of the Bai Causeway. The legendary tale of Lady White Snake took place here. After a snowfall, the snow on the sunny side melts first, while snow on the shaded side still lingers. Looking from afar, the bridge appears to be broken, thus the name.
Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
Most visitors to West Lake are so fascinated by the lake itself that they often don't notice the surroundings. At the site called Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds, visitors are advised to also lift their gaze from the lake's surface and behold the view on the other side of the lake, where one is rewarded by the sight of two mountain peaks, separated by the short distance of about five kilometers, at the northern rim of the lake. On certain days with low-lying clouds, or on other days when a low-lying fog is present, it is as if these twin peaks pierce through the clouds, the fog, etc., hence the site's name.
Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
During the Southern Song Dynasty, an imperial garden, featuring especially weeping willow trees - which is almost always the perfect complement to a seascape - was built on this site. The imperial garden has since become a public park, replete with pavilions, bridges and lawns, and of course the orioles still visit the willows, where they sing as beautifully as when the emperor came here to listen to their song.
Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
This spot is located at the southern end of Su Causeway. A clean stream flows from Huajia Hill to join West Lake here, and many flowers grow where the fresh water flows in, so it called "Flowery Harbor". This area now has been made into a 22 hectare (54 acre) park with many varieties of trees and flowers, featuring a peony garden which blooms in April and a goldfish pond which is the famous site for viewing fish.
Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
Three miniature stone pagodas, which act like beacons, built over 800 years ago and 2 meters in height, are the centerpiece of the scenic spot called "Three Pools Mirroring the Moon". To the west of Three Pools Mirroring the Moon Island stand rounded hollow stone pagodas with five round holes like windows around the top and bottom levels. On the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, when the moon shines full and bright in the sky, a candle is lit inside each of the pagodas. The light from the holes and the moon cast their reflections on the water, hence the name.
Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚鐘)
This site, like most of the other sites at West Lake, is to be enjoyed to its fullest under certain specific conditions; Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Mountain, as the name suggests, is to be enjoyed at dusk, when the sun slowly sets, its softened rays casting their multi-colored reflections on the surface of the lake. At this hour the huge bell of Jingxi Temple peals, its clear, forceful sound reverberating across the lake, as if amplified in the still evening air, calling for humility and reminding Buddhists of their age-old religious heritage - and indeed, reminding anyone who experiences this beautiful setting of his or her ultimate smallness within the larger scope of things.
Traditional Top Ten Scenes of West lake Hangzhou:
Bamboo-Lined Path at Yunqi (云栖竹径)
The Bamboo-Lined Path at Yunqi (云栖竹径) is 20 km from West Lake and is not far from the Pagoda of Six Harmonies. Featuring a sea of bamboo, it is a sight to behold. It ranks first among the "New Ten Scenes of West Lake." "Yunqi" means " lingering clouds". Legend has it that in an ancient time, some auspiciously colorful clouds swirled around the nearby Colorful Clouds Hill and lingered on, hence the name. In a word, Bamboo-Lined Path at Yunqi is an ultimate getaway into nature. The luxuriant bamboo forests, crystal-clear streams, elegant pavilions and pagodas, and a wealth of ancient trees will reward you with a peaceful mind, romantic memory and purified heart and soul.
Sweet Osmanthus Rain at Manjuelong Village（满陇桂雨）
Nestling within a narrow strip of valley dwarfed by the soaring the Southern Peak and White Crane Peak, this secluded, mysterious and inviting village is a place to appreciate Osmanthus flowers, which are crowned as the city flower of Hangzhou. Manjuelong Village is the best place to enjoy Sweet Osmanthus flowers in Hangzhou. Now, you will have the privilege to marvel at over 7,000 Osmanthus trees roughly falling into four varieties. Among them, the most ancient dates back to over 200 years ago. When autumn falls, they will bloom wild and largely in hues of creamy white, golden yellow or shining orange. As balmy autumn breezes blow over them, the tiny blossoms will fall off the trees and cover the ground with an elegant floral carpet; one can even find a few that have landed on the shoulders as one basks in these poetic, richly scented surroundings.
Heavenly Wind over Wu Hill（吴山天风）
Situated in downtown Hangzhou, Heavenly Wind over Wu Hill is one of Ten New Scenes of West Lake. It commands a panoramic view of both the bustling Hefang Street and downtown Hangzhou as well as the serene West Lake. Wu Hill is famous for five things: ancient trees and clear springs, grotesque rocks and caves, temples and shrines,engaging customs and rich historical relics. Moreover, at the northern foot of the hill is China’s first traditional medicine museum inside the more-than-100-year-old Hu Qing Yu Tang Pharmacy, also renowned for its very impressive Qing style architecture.
Ruan Gong Islet Submerged in Greenery（阮墩环碧）
Ruan Gong Islet came to be after the Zhejiang Governor Ruan Yuan dredged the West Lake in the fifth year of Emperor’s reign (AD 1800) in Qing Dynasty.It is the smallest island among the three islands of the West Lake. The small island appears to float upon clear, green waves and is hidden away among flowers and clusters of trees, just like crystal emeralds on a jasper plate. The name “Ruan Gong Islet Submerged in Greenery” comes from that. The whole environment, with faraway mountains and nearby water, is open and bright, and clear and quiet.
Dreaming of Tiger at Hupao Valley（虎跑梦泉）
The hills and vales of West Lake have nurtured many springs, among which Tiger Spring, Dragon Well Spring and Jade Spring are the most famous. Ranking as the third best spring in China.Tiger Spring takes its name from the legend of an eminent monk from Tang Dynasty (618-907) who came here in 819. In ancient times this beautiful spot with its mystical touch was made known as "Tiger Spring and Celestial Trace" and is one of the 24 scenes of Hangzhou. A trip to this site won’t be complete if you do not taste a cup of Longjing Tea brewed with spring from its well. Partly due to its pure water and partly due to its fame, tea aficionados keep thronging to this tranquil site.
Inquiring about Tea at Dragon Well(龙井问茶）
Hidden amid the dense forest of Phoenix Hill off the southern shore of West Lake, Inquiring about Tea at Dragon Well keeps attracting tea aficionados like a magnet. Incorporating postcard-perfect natural scenery and rich cultural connotations, it shines as a sparkling gem among West Lake’s treasured sites. The charm of Inquiring about Tea at Dragon Well lies not only in its crystal-clear spring with unmatched purity, but also in its myriad legends responsible for its enduring charm and legacy. Appreciating the ripples of the Dragon Well, drinking its spring water and siping a cup of Longjing tea are three must-dos. Though serene and out of the way, this place receives a regular stream of visitors daily.
Nine Creeks Meandering Through a Misty Forest（九溪烟树）
Nine Creeks Meandering through a Misty Forest (九溪烟树), also known as “Nine Creeks” or “Nine Creeks and Eighteen Ravines”, is full of rustic flavor. As one of Hangzhou’s top hiking trails, the scenery of Nine Creeks is at its best during misty or rainy days, just as its name hints. The hazy, surreal scenery has long been a source of inspiration and has been immortalized by beautiful poems and dazzling traditional Chinese landscape paintings.
Yellow Dragon Cave Dressed in Green（黄龙吐翠）
This scenic spot is located at northern foot of Qixia Ridge on the North Mountain of the West Lake. In the “twenty-four scenes in Hangzhou” of the Qing Dynasty, there was a scene called “Yellow Dragon Cave Accumulated with Green,” from which the scene called “Yellow Dragon Cave Dressed in Green” was born. The phrase “pour out” highlights the peculiar scene: the mouth of the dragon protrudes out between the spring pool and the steep cliff, pouring water out, and the waterfall’s curtain appears to hang upside down.
Clouds Scurrying over Jade Emperor Hill（玉皇飞云）
Jade Emperor Hill faces the West Lake to the north, is close to the Qiantang River in the south, and connects the Nanping Hill and the large Cizhu Mountain in the west. There are always clouds and mist winding around its top, hence this site is called “Clouds Scurrying over Jade Emperor Hill”Jade Emperor Hill lies between the West Lake and the Qiantang River at an altitude of 239 meters. It is towering and dramatic, and becomes even more magnificent and majestic when contrasted by a blue sky and white clouds. When the wind rises and clouds skim quickly across the hill, stand on the Dengyun Pavilion at the top of the hill to hear the sound of wind around your ears and feel clouds and mist caress your face and fly away.
Precious Stone Hill Floating in Rosy Clouds(宝石流霞）
Precious Stone Hill, a hike-friendly hill perching on the northern bank of West Lake, is one of the locals' most popular weekend jaunts and a favorite summer escape. It features soaring pagodas, quaint pavilions, serene monasteries, dense bamboo forests, winding trails, diversified wildlife and countless red rocks sparkling like inlaid diamonds against a morning or evening glow. Hence, it’s called Precious Stone Hill. Precious Stone Hill Floating in Rosy Clouds, a natural wonder epitomizing its dramatic beauty during a sunrise or sunset, is among the Ten New Scenes of West Lake.
Hours: 24 hours
How to get there: If you aren't already staying nearby, any taxi will know Xīhú (西湖). Most city buses stop at points along the shore. The city operates stands that rent bicycles perfect for exploring the lake area.
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