Hangzhou (100 kilometers southwest of Shanghai) was described by Marco Polo (1254-1324) as "the greatest city which may be found in this world." Known to the Chinese as "paradise on earth" is located near the mountains, at the head of Hangzhou Bay, and traditionally has been a favorite resort of the emperors. In the 13th century, it was the capital of the Song dynasty and was perhaps the largest city in the world with over a million people. Today the city proper is home around 9.1 million people while the Metro area, including Shaoxing, Jiaxing and Huzhou, contains about 22.6 million people.
Hangzhou (also spelled Hang-chou and Hangchow) is the capital of Zhejiang province and is its political, economic and cultural center. Famous for its natural beauty and cultural and historical sights, it attracts a fair number of Chinese and foreign tourists. Many of its attractions often turn out to be tourist traps surrounded by noodle stalls and souvenir stands. Still it has wonderful places to escape and is very popular with Chinese tourists. There are beautiful temples, pavilions, hills and lakes. It also reportedly has the most beautiful women in China and is famous for silk weaving, sandalwood fans, vinegar fish, aromatic green teas, local lonjing tea, and Dragon Well tea.
'Above is heaven, below is Hangzhou.' is the famous Chinese saying that describes how beautiful the city was in Imperial times. It is located on the north bank of the lower reaches of Qiantang River. Hangzhou is particularly famous for Xi Hu (West Lake), lovely body of water flanked by terraces with flowers, trees, and pavilions. Hangzhou has a subtropical monsoon type climate with four distinct seasons. However, it can be hot and smoggy in summer but is not too cold, but is still smoggy in the winter.
David Kelly wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Few cities in this vast, complex land rival Hangzhou in the hearts and minds of the Chinese. They rush in like pilgrims, more than 20 million a year, eager to drink in the classic scenery of mountains, pagodas and tea fields while reveling in the cultural grandeur of the vanished Southern Song dynasty. The Song, who believed Confucian values were best elevated through the arts, made Hangzhou their capital, appointing poets as governors who drew inspiration from the shimmering West Lake in the center of town. When Marco Polo visited in the 13th century, he described a 100-mile-wide metropolis of canals crossed by 12,000 bridges, sumptuous pears weighing 10 pounds each and perfumed courtesans skilled in the "arts of allurement." [Source: David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2013]
Tourist Office: Hangzhou Tourism Administration, 484 Yan’an Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, tel. (0)-571-515-6617, fax: (0)- 571-515-2645 Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Maps of Hangzhou: chinamaps.org ; Getting There: Hangzhou is accessible by air, bus and train. It is a little over an hour from Shanghai on a new fast train and is well connected to other main cities on China. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide
History of Hangzhou
Waiting for a steamship in the 1920s Hangzhou has long been regarded as a cultural center. In the 11th century, its governor was the famed Song-dynasty poet Su Dongpo, who presided over a scholarly class that spent their time participating in writing parties and hanging out in gardens and tea houses. West Lake and its environs inspired great poets such as Bai Juyi as well as Su Dongpo. The city was a popular retreat of Chinese of the emperors. In the 13th century, it was the capital of the Song dynasty and was perhaps the largest city in the world with over a million people.
Hangzhou was visited by Marco Polo "many times" in the late 13th century. He called it "the greatest city which may be found in this world" and wrote that it had a population of 1.5 million people, 15 times more than his native Venice." He also wrote it had the "great quantity of rich palaces" and fine bath where "a hundred men or a hundred women can well bathe" and was graced by 10,000 bridges (a later traveler could only find 347).
Located at an advantageous position in the Yangtze Delta, Hangzhou is the southern terminus of the Grand Canal and was known in imperial times as one of China's major silk-producing centers. Hangzhou silk is still internationally famous. The Grand Canal was extended to Hangzhou in part to take advantage of the rich agricultural areas around it and supply food to Beijing and other places in the north.
Much of the ancient city that had been the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty was destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion in the mid 19th century. Light industry was developed under the Communists. Today, the city is known as a tech center and is the home of Alibaba and other well-known Chinese IT firms. As such it provides a base for many talented and skilled people.
Marco Polo on Hangzhou
Marco Polo (1254-1324) described Hangzhou, capital of the Southern Song, as "the greatest city which may be found in this world." Situated at the southern end of the Grand Canal about 175 kilometers from present-day Shanghai, Hangzhou was a natural center for trade. Marco Polo reported that it had a population of 1.5 million people, 15 times more than his native Venice” and had ten marketplaces, each half a mile long, where 40,000 to 50,000 people would go to shop on any given day, and 10,000 bridges (a later traveler could only find 347). There were also numerous restaurants, a "great quantity of rich palaces" and bathhouses with hot or cold water baths, where "a hundred men or a hundred women can well bathe". [Source: National Geographic, Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Consultants Patricia Ebrey and Conrad Schirokauer afe.easia.columbia.edu/song ]
According to Marco Polo: “When you have left the city of Changan and have travelled for three days through a splendid country, passing a number of towns and villages, you arrive at the most noble city of Kinsay [Hangzhou], a name which is as much as to say in our tongue “The City of Heaven," as I told you before. [Source: Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa, “Book Second, Part III, Chapter LXXVI: Description of the Great City of Kinsay, Which Is the Capital of the Whole Country of Manzi” and “Book Second, Part III, Chapter LXXVII: Further Particulars Concerning the Great City of Kinsay," in The Book of Ser Marco Polo: The Venetian Concerning Kingdoms and Marvels of the East, translated and edited by Colonel Sir Henry Yule, Volume 2 (London: John Murray, 1903). This book is in the public domain and can be read online at Project Gutenberg. The excerpted text is from pages 179-180, 182, and 190-191 of this online text */*]
“And since we have got thither I will enter into particulars about its magnificence; and these are well worth the telling, for the city is beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world... First and foremost, then, [the city of Kinsay is] so great that it hath an hundred miles of compass. And there are in it twelve thousand bridges of stone, for the most part so lofty that a great fleet could pass beneath them. And let no man marvel that there are so many bridges, for you see the whole city stands as it were in the water and surrounded by water, so that a great many bridges are required to give free passage about it. */*
“All the streets of the city are paved with stone or brick, as indeed are all the highways throughout Manzi, so that you ride and travel in every direction without inconvenience. Were it not for this pavement you could not do so, for the country is very low and flat, and after rain ’tis deep in mire and water. */*
“You must know also that the city of Kinsay has some 3000 baths, the water of which is supplied by springs. They are hot baths, and the people take great delight in them, frequenting them several times a month, for they are very cleanly in their persons. They are the finest and largest baths in the world; large enough for 100 persons to bathe together...At the opposite side the city is shut in by a channel, perhaps 40 miles in length, very wide, and full of water derived from the river aforesaid, which was made by the ancient kings of the country in order to relieve the river when flooding its banks. This serves also as a defence to the city, and the earth dug from it has been thrown inwards, forming a kind of mound enclosing the city." */*
Marco Polo on Hangzhou Markets
According to Marco Polo: In this part are the ten principal markets, though besides these there are a vast number of others in the different parts of the town. The former are all squares of half a mile to the side, and along their front passes the main street, which is 40 paces in width, and runs straight from end to end of the city, crossing many bridges of easy and commodious approach. At every four miles of its length comes one of those great squares of 2 miles (as we have mentioned) in compass. So also parallel to this great street, but at the back of the market places, there runs a very large canal, on the bank of which towards the squares are built great houses of stone, in which the merchants from India and other foreign parts store their wares, to be handy for the markets. [Source: Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa, “Book Second, Part III, Chapter LXXVI: Description of the Great City of Kinsay, Which Is the Capital of the Whole Country of Manzi” and “Book Second, Part III, Chapter LXXVII: Further Particulars Concerning the Great City of Kinsay," in The Book of Ser Marco Polo: The Venetian Concerning Kingdoms and Marvels of the East, translated and edited by Colonel Sir Henry Yule, Volume 2 (London: John Murray, 1903). This book is in the public domain and can be read online at Project Gutenberg. The excerpted text is from pages 179-180, 182, and 190-191 of this online text."/*]
“In each of the squares is held a market three days in the week, frequented by 40,000 or 50,000 persons, who bring thither for sale every possible necessary of life, so that there is always an ample supply of every kind of meat and game, as of roebuck, red-deer, fallow-deer, hares, rabbits, partridges, pheasants, francolins, quails, fowls, capons, and of ducks and geese an infinite quantity; for so many are bred on the Lake that for a Venice groat of silver you can have a couple of geese and two couple of ducks. Then there are the shambles where the larger animals are slaughtered, such as calves, beeves, kids, and lambs, the flesh of which is eaten by the rich and the great dignitaries. */*
“Those markets make a daily display of every kind of vegetables and fruits; and among the latter there are in particular certain pears of enormous size, weighing as much as ten pounds apiece, and the pulp of which is white and fragrant like a confection; besides peaches in their season both yellow and white, of every delicate flavour. Neither grapes nor wine are produced there, but very good raisins are brought from abroad, and wine likewise. The natives, however, do not much are about wine, being used to that kind of their own made from rice and spices. */*
“From the Ocean Sea also come daily supplies of fish in great quantity, brought 25 miles up the river, and there is also great store of fish from the lake, which is the constant resort of fishermen, who have no other business. Their fish is of sundry kinds, changing with the season; and, owing to the impurities of the city which pass into the lake, it is remarkably fat and savoury. Any one who should see the supply of fish in the market would suppose it impossible that such a quantity could ever be sold; and yet in a few hours the whole shall be cleared away; so great is the number of inhabitants who are accustomed to delicate living. Indeed they eat fish and flesh at the same meal.All the ten market places are encompassed by lofty houses, and below these are shops where all sorts of crafts are carried on, and all sorts of wares are on sale, including spices and jewels and pearls. Some of these shops are entirely devoted to the sale of wine made from rice and spices, which is constantly made fresh and fresh, and is sold very cheap." */*
Hangzhou was the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, the largest ancient artificial waterway in the world and an engineering marvel on the scale of the Great Wall of China. Begun in 540 B.C. and completed in A.D. 1327, it is 1,781 kilometers (1,107 miles) long and has largely been dug by hand by a work force described as a "million people with teaspoons." At its peak the Grand Canal extended from Tianjin in the north to Hangzhou in the south. It connected Beijing and Xian in the north with Shanghai in the south, and linked four great rivers—the Yellow, the Yangtze, Huai and Qiantang. The still-functioning parts of the Grand Canal are still in use mainly as water-diversion conduits.
According to Columbia University's Asia for Educators: In the Ming and Qing eras, the “Grand Canal was a major conduit for grain, salt, and other important commodities. Any taxes that were paid in kind were paid in grain, which was shipped along the Grand Canal. Thus, control of the Grand Canal was of critical importance to the government. To a certain extent, the state itself facilitated the movement of goods to market by locating Beijing, its capital, far to the north, away from the rich and prosperous rice growing areas of Southern China. This resulted in a natural market for the demand of goods in the North, if for no other reason than to feed the imperial household and court. This was one of the reasons why it was so important to keep the Grand Canal working. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Madeleine Zelin, Consultant, learn.columbia.edu/nanxuntu <|>]
The Grand Canal was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. According to UNESCO: “The Grand Canal forms a vast inland waterway system in the northeastern and central eastern plains of China, passing through eight of the country's present-day provinces. It runs from the capital Beijing in the north to Zhejiang Province in the south. Constructed in sections from the 5th century B.C. onwards, it was conceived as a unified means of communication for the Empire for the first time in the 7th century AD (Sui Dynasty). This led to a series of gigantic worksites, creating the world's largest and most extensive civil engineering project ensemble prior to the Industrial Revolution."Source: UNESCO ==]
“Completed and maintained by successive dynasties, it formed the backbone of the Empire's inland communications system. Its management was made possible over a long period by means of the Caoyun system, the imperial monopoly for the transport of grain and strategic raw materials, and for the taxation and control of traffic. The system enabled the supply of rice to feed the population, the unified administration of the territory, and the transport of troops. The Grand Canal reached a new peak in the 13th century (Yuan Dynasty), providing a unified inland navigation network consisting of more than 2,000 kilometers of artificial waterways, linking five of the most important river basins in China, including the Yellow River and the Yangtze. Still a major means of internal communication today, it has played an important role in ensuring the economic prosperity and stability of China over the ages." ==
“The canal sections, the remains of hydraulic facilities, and the associated complementary and urban facilities satisfactorily and comprehensibly embody the route of the Grand Canal, its hydraulic functioning in conjunction with the natural rivers and lakes, the operation of its management system and the context of its historic uses. The geographic distribution of these attributes is sufficient to indicate the dimensions, geographic distribution of the routes, and the major historic role played by the Grand Canal in the domestic history of China. Of the 85 individual elements forming the serial property, 71 are considered to be appropriately preserved and in a state of complete integrity, with 14 in a state of lesser integrity. However, the inclusion of recently excavated archaeological elements means that it is not always possible to properly judge their contribution to the overall understanding of the Grand Canal, particularly in terms of technical operation.
Hangzhou Hosts the G20 Summit in 2016
In September 2016, Hangzhou hosted the G20 summit and world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama, gathered there. Yue Wang of Forbes wrote:“Hangzhou, a scenic lakeside city about an hour by bullet train from Shanghai, essentially got a facelift after months of busy preparation for the very first G20 meeting China will host. Buildings are renovated, roads are re-built and nearby factories are shut down to ensure that the city of nine million people is ready. [Source: Yue Wang, Forbes, September 2, 2016]
“Economic issues dominated “the event’s agenda. China...put forward a “blueprint for innovation-driven growth” and” tried “to promote plans for improving global economic governance and strengthening financial, tax, energy and anti-corruption cooperation, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Beijing, however,” didn’t want arguments over protectionism and territorial disputes including the South China Sea to derail the show for its growing dominance on the global stage.
“Hangzhou, although known for its scenic landscape, is no stranger to choking air pollution. To ensure that world leaders” gathered “under blue skies, China temporarily shut down hundreds of factories in nearby cities and provinces. Migrant workers were told to go home as construction in the city is halted. The city’s residents use the phrase “G20 Blue” to describe their fleeting blue skies. Similar terms have been invented in the past. Residents in Beijing came up with the phrase “APEC Blue” in 2014 after China shut down factories to clean up the city’s air for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Meetings that year.
“To ensure smooth traffic for summit delegations, Hangzhou residents are given a week off from Sept 1st to 7th and encouraged to travel elsewhere. More than two million, or about one in three of Hangzhou citizens, plan to go outside the city as the summit takes place, reported the state-run China.org. Tourist companies are taking advantage of the upcoming exodus. Online travel company Ctrip is handing out 100 million yuan in vouchers to Hangzhou residents to encourage them to use its services.
Yue Wang of Forbes wrote:“Hangzhou is now shaping up to be a technology hub — a symbol of China’s transition from a low-cost manufacturer to a more technology-powered growth. The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba was founded in a small lakeside apartment in Hangzhou in 1999. The group is still headquartered there, with several sprawling facilities hosting tens of thousands of employees. Alipay, the payment app operated by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, now allows residents to pay restaurant, shopping, utilities and transportation bills with a single swipe of their smartphones. [Source: Yue Wang, Forbes, September 2, 2016]
“Hangzhou is also home to smaller tech startups. Chinese social shopping company Mogujie and baby product site Beibei are also headquartered in the city. In January, Mogujie merged with its Tencent-backed rival Meilishuo in a deal valuing the new company at US$3 billion. Hikvision, the world’s largest supplier of video surveillance equipment, is also based in Hangzhou.
“Many of these companies have a connection to Alibaba. Mogujie and Beibei’s founders worked at the e-commerce group before striking out on their own. Healthcare startup Ding Xiangyuan once hired Alibaba veteran Feng Dahui as its chief technology officer. Alibaba founder Jack Ma is also expected to promote his trade initiative Electronic World Trade Platform, or e-WTP, that connects small businesses worldwide through a global e-commerce platform, during the meeting.”
Subways and Trains in Hangzhou
Beginning operations in 2012, the Hangzhou Metro consists of 5 lines with a total length of 209 kilometers and 133 stations.
Line 1 runs from Xianghu (Xiaoshan) to Xiasha Jiangbin (Jianggan) and Linping (Yuhang). Opened in 2012 and 2015, it is 53.6 kilometers long and has 34 stations.
Line 2 runs from Chaoyang (Xiaoshan) to Liangzhu (Yuhang). Opened in 2014 and 2017, it is kilometers long and has 43.3 kilometers long and has 32 stations.
Line 4 runs from Pengbu (Jianggan) to Puyan (Binjiang). Opened in 2015 kilometers long and has and 2018, it is 20.8 kilometers long and has 18 stations.
Line 5 runs from Jinxing (Yuhang) to Guniangqiao (Xiaoshan). Opened in 2019 and 2020, it is 56.2 kilometers long and has 37 stations.
Line 16 runs from Lvting Road (Yuhang) to Jiuzhou Street (Lin'an). Opened in 2020, it is 35.1 kilometers long and has 12 stations. Hangzhou Subway Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net
Hangzhou sits at the junction of some of the busiest rail corridors in China. The city's main station, Hangzhou East railway station (known locally as "East Station"). It is one of the biggest and busiest rail stations in China, consisting of 15 platforms. High Speed CRH trains run frequently to Shanghai, Nanjing, Changsha, Ningbo, and Beijing and other destinations. Slower old-style trains also stop here. beyond. The subway station beneath the station can be reached by the Hangzhou Metro Lines 1 and 4.
High speed trains leave for Shanghai about every 20 minutes from 6:00am to 9:00pm. Non-stop CRH high-speed service between Hangzhou and Shanghai takes 50 minutes and leaves every hour (excluding a few early morning/late night departures) from both directions. Other CRH high-speed trains that stop at one or more stations along the route take about an hour to an hour and half to complete the trip. Most major cities in China can also be reached by direct train service from Hangzhou or at least a train from Shanghai that stops in Hangzhou. There are 12 daily trains to Beijing, more than 100 to Shanghai and one that reaches as far Urumqi. The CRH trains reach speeds speed of 350 km/h (220 mph).The Hangzhou railway station (known locally as the "City Station") was closed for renovation in mid 2013 but has recently opened again.You can get to Hangzhou by a bus that leaves from Pudong Airport in Shanghai.
Food and Restaurants in Hangzhou
Hangzhou dishes are noted for their elaborate preparation, sophisticated cooking and refreshing taste. Local specialties include Beggar's Chicken (a chicken baked in clay), West Lake Fish in Sweet Sour Source (vinegar coated fish fresh caught from the lake), Dongpo Pork (braised pork), Fried Shrimps with Longjing Tea, hundun (dumplings served in soup), cairu doufu (salty vegetable boiled with tofu), mao er duo (a kind of wheaten food with a shape like cat's ears) and of course mini-steamed dumplings seen in many restaurant window and street-side stands. A place called Zhi Wei Guan is said to serve the best mini-steamed dumplings in of Hangzhou.
A writer for the China Daily reported: “The see-through dumpling skin is so thin and the minced meat stuffing so juicy it explodes in your mouth as soon as you take a bite. When I was a child, my family often took me to the restaurant. There was always a long queue for the freshly made treats. If they sold out, there was no need to worry-new ones would be ready within 10 minutes... The city's most famous dish is traditionally served in a bamboo food steamer, each holding 8-10 dumplings. The way the waiters and waitresses bring out the steamers is spectacular. The containers are piled high, way above their heads, and the irresistible smell greets diners' noses, making their mouths water before they have even picked up their chopsticks. The price of mini-steamed dumplings has doubled over the last decade to 10 yuan (US$1.47) per steamer but it is still cheap enough to eat well. In recent years, Zhi Wei Guan has opened many branches in the city, and its headquarters on Ren He Road is the best of all.[Source: China Daily January 16, 2009]
Well-known restaurants in Hangzhou include 1) Hongni Garden Restaurant Location: No. 48 Xueshi Road, Tel: 0086-571-87918989; 2) Louwailou, Location: No. 30 Gushan Road, Tel: 0086-571-87969682; 3) Shoukangyong Vegetarian Restaurant, Location: No. 88 Yan’ an South Road, Tel: 0086-571-87070118; 4) Tianwaitian. Location: 2 Lingzhu Road, Tel: 0086-571-87999909; and 5) Zhiweiguan, Location: No. 83 Renhe Road, Tel: 0086-571-87065871
Tea and Hangzhou
David Kelly wrote in the Los Angeles Times: Everyone I met in Shanghai, an hour away by train, urged me to go. The lake, the temples, the history, they said, would help me understand China. All true, but I had something less lofty in mind — the prospect of an exceptionally good cup of tea.“After a nasty battle with cancer, I became an avid tea drinker, convinced that every swig of the antioxidant-rich brew fortified me against a recurrence. I routinely drink half a gallon a day. Green teas are my favorite, and Hangzhou is home to one of the best on Earth. [Source: David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2013]
“Shortly after arriving, I picked up a brochure from the Hangzhou Tourist Commission. “"In this earthly paradise, you'd better do nothing but take a walk in the scenic village path, breathe fresh tea aroma in green woods and listen to moving love stories beside the West Lake," it said. "Close your eyes and enjoy Hangzhou with all of your heart." “I was skeptical. Hangzhou looked less a paradise than a teeming city of 8 million. Cars, pedestrians and motorbikes played chicken on streets and sidewalks. Noisy construction sites rattled and banged. “"Listen, Hangzhou is the best city in China, at least according to Marco Polo," said Stone Shih, a local college teacher and occasional tour guide hanging out in the lobby of my hotel. "The tea is so good here you can actually eat it. You can eat a cup of tea!" “Eat a cup of tea?
“Hangzhou's subtropical, drizzly climate produces longjing, or Dragon Well tea, an expensive variety famed throughout the world.... I asked a cabbie to take me into the green hills surrounding the city. A half-hour later, he dropped me in Weng Jia Shan, a tea-growing village engulfed in rain and fog, where I was immediately waylaid by hawkers. "Drink tea? Drink tea?" they cried from open doorways. Old men leapt up from mah-jongg tables making sipping motions. Women trailed me with jars of tea leaves. A young woman batted her eyes before a nicely set table, "Just taste," she purred. The prices were extortionate, often three or four times higher than the museum's.
Earlier that day a guide had offered to show me around. "Don't buy the tea at the museum," he warned. "Buy it in the villages." "Why?" I asked. "Because then I'll get a commission," he replied. I suddenly wanted a cup of coffee. Plus I was lost, and my Chinese was severely limited. A narrow path led down the mountain, so I took it. In a moment the world changed, swallowing me up in a profusion of green. Arched stone bridges crossed ponds laden with lotus plants. Nameless paths forked left and right. I entered a misty bamboo forest planted by a Buddhist monk 1,000 years ago. Down, down, past Bamboos in the Wind Ridge, through the serene Guioxi Pavilion with its walls of inscribed poetry.
“The land opened up, terraced tea fields spreading into the mountains on either side. This was Dragon Well, where tea has been cultivated since the 9th century. Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty fell so madly in love with these jade hills that he made a list of his favorite spots — the Top Eight Scenes of Dragon Well. I realized I was walking through every Chinese watercolor painting I'd ever seen. Mountains, emerald pools, upturned roofs crowned with dragon heads — scenes that have inspired a thousand romantic journeys.”
Entertainment and Shopping in Hangzhou
At night Hangzhou has much to offer and teahouses and various kinds of pubs are both plentiful and popular. Choosing one overlooking the West Lake for a pleasant chat over a cup of tea is a popular activity with Chinese tourists. There also many places to pick up snacks and shop for over-priced souvenirs around West Lake.
The shopping environment in Hangzhou is extensive and convenient. Travelers and tourists often head to go to Qing He Fang Street. It is one of the most famous and historic streets in the city and has new buildings that — for the most part unsuccessfully — to bring back the atmosphere of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Shoppers stop in old-style buildings with shops that sell silks, tea, parasols, brocades and beautiful Hangzhou fans.
Popular malls and department stores include 1) Hangzhou Department Store. Location: No. 546 Yan’an Road, Tel: 0086-571-85158800; 2) Hangzhou Guoda Shopping Center, Location: No. 619 Yan’ an Road, Tel: 0086-571-85066336; 3) Hangzhou Tower Shopping Center, Location: No. 21 Wulin Plaza, Tel: +86-571-85153911; 4) Zhejiang Intime Department Store, Location: No. 530 Yan’an Road, Tel: 0086-571-8506988.
Sights in Hangzhou
Many of the tourist sites in Hangzhou have intriguing names: the Cave of the Morning Mist and Sunset Glow and Running Tiger Dream Spring. The Park of Orioles Singing in the Willows is a Song dynasty garde. The Temple of Inspired Seclusion is surrounded by cliffs covered with religious symbols. The Yellow Dragon Cave is a man-made grotto carved into a cliff. Xihu State Hotel has 160 rooms. Mao stayed here more than 40 times. The suite were Nixon and Kissinger stayed in 1972 goes for around US$300 a night. Other rooms go for between US$75 and US$200.
Few traces of Marco Polo's Hangzhou remain other than perhaps some of the canals with small bridges and houses with their front sides facing the water. Tourists visiting the city often take time to see a stream pouring into the mouth of a dragon and make time for a performance of Yue, a local musical form. Funnel-shaped Hangzhou Bay sometimes produces a tidal bore with three-meter walls of water that rushes at speed of almost 10 mph with a loud roar.
West Lake is undoubtedly the most renowned feature of Hangzhou. It is noted for it scenic beauty and the way nature blends with many famous historical and cultural sites. In this scenic area, Solitary Hill, the Mausoleum of General Yue Fei, the Six Harmonies Pagoda and the Ling Yin Temple are probably the most frequently visited attractions. The "Ten West Lake Prospects" have been specially selected to give the visitor outstanding views of the lake, mountains and monuments.
Six Harmonies Pagoda (on Yuelun Mountain) is one of China's most famous octagonal pagodas. Regarded as a masterpiece of Chinese architecture and built in A.D. 970, it is made of brick and wood and is almost 200 feet tall. From the outside it appears to have 13 stories but on the inside there are only seven. A stone staircase leads to the top, where there are beautiful views of the Qiantong River. Also worth a look are Leifeng Tower (south of West Lake), named after the mountain it stands on and built by a king for his concubine during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period; and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, with three stone towers in front of a pavilion on a lake.
Songcheng (Hangzhou) is a theme park originally conceived as a celebration of Song Dynasty culture.Andrew Chin wrote: “Boasting a unique model that emphasizes live theatrical cultural performances, Songcheng is able to usher in vast groups of people.” Website: www.songcn.com [Source: Andrew Chin, That’s Shanghai, July 28, 2016]
Qiantang River and the World’s Largest River Bore
Qiantong River (running through Hangzhou) boasts the world's largest river bore (wave of tidal water). According to the Guinness Book of Records, the spring tides on Qiantong River produces a wave that can reach a height of 25 feet and a speed of 13-15 knots and can be heard 20 kilometers away. This bore keeps large ocean-going vessels from entering the port.
Qiantang River is the largest river in Zhejiang Province, extending for 688 kilometers (427.5 miles). The river serves as an important transportation link between eastern and central China. The largest tidal bore in the world occurs on Qiantang River upstream from its mouth with the funnel-shaped Bay of Hangzhou. The extraordinary tidal bore of the Qiantang River is an absolutely spectacular sight and it is said that only the Amazon River's tide can rival it!
The tidal bore takes place on the eighteenth day of the eighth lunar month (around Mid-Autumn Day). At that time the river's rushing water sounds like thunder. Every year, millions of spectators flock here to watch the phenomenon and occasionally some get too close to the action and get washed away. . created by Mother Nature herself. Every year a Tidal Bore Watching Festival, along with various activities, takes place in celebration of the soaring tide; Admission: Free. [Source: China.org]
Museums in Hangzhou
A number of national museums can be found in Hangzhou, the most well-known of which are the National Silk Museum and Tea Museum. Located near the Tea Museum in the West Lake area is the Huqingyu Chinese herbal medicine shop, China's only Chinese Medicine Museum.
Hangzhou Provincial Museum (on the West Lake) is a former summer palace with live and mechanical fish. It also boast what may be the oldest samples of silk: some threads and knots dating back to 2,500 B.C. There is also a large silk factory in Hangzhou.
China National Silk Museum (on the southern side of West Lake) describes the 5,000 year history of silk. It is the first state-level professional silk museum in China as well as the biggest silk museum throughout the world. It opened to the public in 1992 and since 2004 people can visit it for free.
China Tea Museum is located at Lonjing on the shore of West Lake. David Kelly wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The museum, surrounded by manicured tea fields, offered a detailed journey through the history of tea. The first recorded tea drinkers were the Ba-Shu of China's Sichuan province. The habit became a symbol of upper-class refinement during the Tang dynasty and a mass-market commodity under the Southern Song who ruled from 1127 to 1279. Cakes of tea the size of wagon wheels were given as tribute to emperors, and longjing was allegedly offered to Buddha himself. I bought 2 ounces of the stuff for US$25 in the museum shop. The taciturn clerk carefully weighed out the tea leaves like bits of gold, depositing them into a small, green tin.” [Source: David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2013]
West Lake (in the heart of the tourist area of Hangzhou) is known as one of the 10 best scenic spots in China. Surrounded by emerald hills on three sides, this large, calm blue lake is dotted with pavilions and moon bridges. According to some people the most serene spot is across the Crossing Rainbows bridge on an island called Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. A good time to come is on the morning when the lake is sometimes misty and people practice tai-chi. Solitary Hill is where the famous poet Bai Juyi was inspired to write many of his greatest poems. It also boasts a rich collection of cultural relics and is surrounded by teahouses, parks, and pagodas. Bikes can be rented. There are self-paddled boats and trips are offered in gondola-style boats..
West Lake (Xi Hu) has been copied by copied by 35 other West Lakes in China. Originally a shallow sea inlet, it was created when a a layer of silt blocked its outlet to other bodies of water. It occupies 5.68 square kilometers (about 1,404 acres), averages three meters in depth and is flanked by hilly terrain on three sides. The main tourist is on the southern part of the lake. Here there is long, causeway with a walking path and various sights often swamped with tourists. The lake was a favorite imperial retreat and and its environs have all the elements of a traditional Chinese garden but on a grand scale.
There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands located within and around the lake. The lake's 11 sections boast over 100 scenic spots! The lake is particularly crowded between June and September, when its lotus flowers are in full bloom. The beauty of the lake has been described and depicted in many Chinese poems and landscape paintings. Admission: Free.
West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou: UNESCO World Heritage Site
The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou West Lake was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. According to UNESCO: “The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands. These additions have been made to improve the landscape west of the city of Hangzhou to the south of the Yangtze river. The West Lake has influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries and bears an exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of improving landscapes to create a series of vistas reflecting an idealised fusion between humans and nature.
“West Lake is surrounded on three sides by 'cloud-capped hills' and on the fourth by the city of Hangzhou. Its beauty has been celebrated by writers and artists since the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907). In order to make it more beautiful, its islands, causeways and the lower slopes of its hills have been 'improved' by the addition of numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees which merge with farmed landscape. The main artificial elements of the lake, two causeways and three islands, were created from repeated dredgings between the 9th and 12th centuries.
“Since the Southern Song Dynasty (thirteenth century) ten poetically named scenic places have been identified as embodying idealised, classic landscapes-that manifest the perfect fusion between man and nature. West Lake is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape that display with great clarity the ideals of Chinese landscape aesthetics, as expounded by writers and scholars in Tang and Song Dynasties. The landscape of West Lake had a profound impact on the design of gardens not only in China but further afield, where lakes and causeways imitated the harmony and beauty of West Lake. The key components of West Lake still allow it to inspire people to 'project feelings onto the landscape'. The visual parameters of this vast landscape garden are clearly defined, rising to the ridges of the surrounding hills as viewed from Hangzhou.
“The improved landscape of West Lake can be seen to reflect Buddhist ideals imported into China from India such as 'Buddhist peacefulness' and 'nature as paintings', and in turn it had a major influence on landscape design in East Asia. Its causeways, islands, bridges, temples, pagodas and well defined views, were widely copied over China, notably in the summer Palace at Beijing and in Japan. The notion of ten poetically named scenic places persisted for seven centuries all over China and also spread to the Korean peninsula after the 16th century, when Korean intellectuals made visits to the West Lake.
“The West Lake landscape is an exceptional testimony to the very specific cultural tradition of improving landscapes to create a series of 'pictures' that reflect what was seen as a perfect fusion between people and nature, a tradition that evolved in the Tang and Song Dynasties and has continued its relevance to the present day. The 'improved' West Lake, with its exceptional array of man-made causeways, islands, bridges, gardens, pagodas and temples, against a backdrop of the wooded hills, can be seen as an entity that manifests this tradition in an outstanding way.
“The Tang and Song culture of demonstrating harmony between man and nature by improving the landscape to create pictures of great beauty, captured by artists and given names by poets, is highly visible in the West Lake Landscape, with its islands, causeways, temples, pagodas and ornamental planting. The value of that tradition has persisted for seven centuries in West Lake and has spread across China and into Japan and Korea, turning it into a tradition of outstanding significance.”
Lingyin Temple (northwest of Hangzhou) is one of the best known Buddhist monasteries in China. Built in A.D. 326 at the foot of Lingyin Mountain, the temple's 100-foot-high main hall is the tallest one-story building with double eaves in China. Inside it is a 60-foot-high camphor wood Buddha. In front of the hall are two stone pagodas. In back of it are high trees and mountains which contain amusing stone inscriptions and statues. , Lingyin Temple, or the Temple of the Soul's Retreat, was founded during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (316-420) by an Indian monk name Hui Li who, according to local legend, chose the site because he was inspired by the spiritual nature of the scenery he found there. Ling Yin Temple is regarded as the premier showpiece in the West Lake environs and is notable also as one of the ten most famous Buddhist temples of China.
Sheltered by forested hills on three sides, the temple is a quiet and secluded sanctuary when it is not thronged by tourists. It is also one of China's largest and most visited Buddhist temples and holds the largest statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni sitting on a lotus throne. During the Five Dynasties Period (907-960), when the temple was prospering, it consisted of 9 buildings, 18 towers, 72 halls with 1,300 rooms and more than 3,000 monks. It has been damaged and restored again several times during its extensive history; Admission: 30 yuan (US$4.7) per person;
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020