Tourism in Hangzhou

Hangzhou is the capital and most populous city of Zhejiang Province in east China.  It sits at the head of Hangzhou Bay, which separates Shanghai and Ningbo. Hangzhou grew to prominence as the southern terminus of the Grand Canal and has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China for much of the last millennium. In fact, as far back as one million years ago, there was already human activity here. Neolithic cultures began to appear on the land over 10000 years ago and about 5000 years ago the Liangzhu Culture flourished, making this area one of the most civilized regions over the entire domain to be known as China.

Today, from one perspective Hangzhou is the city of modernity, of Alibaba, the G20, and a booming business hub; from another, its mountain streams, bamboo fields, and temples that have seen centuries.

Hangzhou is renowned for its historic relics and natural beauty. It is known as one of the most beautiful cities in China, also ranking as one of the most scenic cities. And tourism remains an important factor for Hangzhou's economy. One of Hangzhou's most popular sights is West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The West Lake Cultural Landscape includes some of Hangzhou's most notable historic and scenic places. Adjacent to the lake is a scenic area which includes historical pagodas, cultural sites, as well as the natural beauty of the lake and hills. Here we introduce the Top 10 Scenes of West Lake for you. Apart from West Lake, there are many other places of interest in Hangzhou, such as Xixi National Wetland Park, Qiantang River Tidal Bore, Grand Canal, and etc. And if you have enough time, do enjoy silk, porcelain and try delicious dishes in Hangzhou.



» The Top 10 Scenes of West Lake (ʮ)

This isnt a list of travel editor picks. The Top 10 Scenes of West Lake are based on an age-old aesthetic tradition that date back to 12th century and have inspired some of the best literature and art in Chinese civilization. These scenes are artworks themselves, curated by both humans and nature. The earliest reference to these ten scenes appeared in Southern Song Dynasty when the construction of the lake was at its peak. As the capital city, Linan, today known as Hangzhou, attracted talented scholars, writers, and artists, giving rise to many lake-themed shanshui (ɽˮ) or Chinese landscape paintings. Works by painters from the Imperial Painting Academy were particularly influentialso much so that rather than simply mimicking reality, painters projected their inner world on the larger universe. Similarly, poets strove for a balanced relationship, one in which man and nature were equal. Over time, scenes for every season began to take shape. With the fall of the Southern Song Dynasty, these scenes dipped out of memory, but they came bubbling back to the surface four centuries later when Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty took an interest and rejuvenated the lake with his works of calligraphy and poetic names. Today, you can find these names inscribed on a stele at their respective locations. So, get your walking shoes on and hit as many of these sites as you can, and maybe you too will be inspired like the poets and painters of ancient China.

Spring Dawn at Su Causeway յ̴

Named after Song poet and Hangzhou governor Su Shi, this expansive causeway cuts through the western third of West Lakea whopping 2,800-meter belt perfect for biking. The reason spring is the best time to visit is evident in the peach blossoms perfuming the moon bridges of the causeway, as well as the soft willows. Perhaps the best way to enjoy the path is to start off at the north, a stones throw from the Shangri-La Hotel. People walk, jog, bike, or rollerblade down the causeway to admire its six bridges and their charms. An early morning walk can also be curiously soothing considering the treks popularity.






Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden Ժ


Quyuan Gardens lotus lilies bud with ebullient pink, and in high summer youll see plenty of steam rising from the green surface of the pond. The garden used to be a brewery for making wine in the Southern Song Dynasty. Both bouquets of summer lotus flowers and fresh wine punctuated the musings of poets and wanderers who meandered through this stunning scenery.






Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake ƽ

When late autumn looms and the moon is full, the scenery here is renowned for its romance. Located at Bai Causeways western point on Gushan Hill, this spot is one of the best places for a panoramic view of the lake. Of course, you can also jump on a boat, cruising while appreciating the serenity of the moonlit lake like a real Song Dynasty connoisseur. Considering the great Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty enjoyed this particular spot, its guaranteed not to disappoint. With a garden, a stele pavilion, a winding bridge, and Gushan Hill behind you, there is plenty to see before nightfall.





Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge (Ųѩ)

When rare snow hits, this area is abuzz with visitors (particularly couples) looking for that perfect snapshot of the Broken Bridge. Located at the east end of the Bai Causeway in the north of the lake, the Broken Bridge, contrary to its name, is firm and intact. It only appears to be broken after a snowfall when the sunny side of the bridge melts the newly-fallen flakes. With its dark brown surface revealed, it creates an illusion that the bridge is broken from the Bai Causeway. But what really makes this site spectacular is its role in the famous folk tale Legend of the White Snakeas the spot where the couple in this romantic story first metmaking it one of the most romantic spots in Hangzhou.



Viewing Fish at Flower Pond ۹

Swirls of orange, albino, and calico carp make these ponds into living paintings. Nestled at the southern end of Su Causeway, the area was once owned by a few ancient officials and literati as a lakeside villa, and over time it has been decorated with gardens of rockeries and pavilions. The Red Fish Pond is located at the center of the garden complex. An interesting scene at this spot is when the brocade carps vie for fallen peach blossom petals in spring. Outside the garden in the free waters of the West Inner Lake, an even larger and no doubt happier school of fish can be found.


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Orioles Singing in the Willows ݺ

This is where locals and visitors alike go to get away from it all: 200,000 square meters of beauty and willows. In spring, the songs of the orioles ring through the willows, mixed with elderly Hangzhou residents crooning classical Chinese opera odes. The orioles in China arent just favored for their song; theyre a symbol of vitality and the natural order. Ming Dynasty poet Wan Dafu wrote of this place, The singing of the orioles never stops in the forest; also, somewhere on the pleasure boats over the lake comes more music.





Three Pools Mirroring the Moon ̶ӳ

If you find yourself far from Hangzhou and still hanker for the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, just take a one-yuan note from your pocket and look at the back. Obviously much better in person, this little islet features three two-meter-tall pagodas with an almost alien-like ethereal aesthetic. Marked with five round holes, these pagodas are lit at night to match the shimmering geometry of the full-autumn moon. Booking a boat early is a necessity; long queues are inevitable for what is arguably one of the most famous and historic art installations in Chinaan island set up in the shape of the character  (meaning farm field). If you spend enough time here, you may find yourself wondering, as the original creators did centuries ago, whether this is a land of immortal fairies.




Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds ˫

Whether youre in it for the exercise or just trying to get a little closer to the divine, the north and south peaks of the eastern stretch of the Tianmu Mountain range cant be missed. The best viewing spot for the twin peaks is by the Hongchun Bridge (鴺) in the northwest corner of West Lake. If youre lucky enough to be visiting on a foggy day, you will see both peaks poking through the haze during a morning stroll. About five kilometers apart, the South Peak is over 256 meters tall, about 100 meters shorter than the Northern Peak. A hike to the North Peak will take you through the Lingyin Temple ()  scenic area.



Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow ׷Ϧ

The glowing reputation of this pagoda can be seen in the evening, when the hues of regal Buddhist red shine with the sunset. But, if you mention this site to anyone in China, the first thing to come to mind is the myth of the White Snake, who, legend has it, is still trapped beneath this towering monolith.




Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill

At first sight, this spot might not seem to have any particular importance, but just close your eyes and listen. Around 4pm every day, the evening bell inside Jingci Temple () on the northern slope of Nanping Hill (ɽ)  resonates against the limestone hills; the sound travels across the lake and echoes when it meets the igneous stone of Geling Hill (). The sound was of course more resonant in the bells younger days without the noise of the modern city, but this is still one of the oldest attractions on West Lake. Inside the maroon and butter-yellow Jingci Temple, pilgrims often line up and nurse home-brewed tea while monks ignite their incense sticks and pay homage. Its also customary for local people in Hangzhou to visit Jingci Temple on Chinese New Years Eve to strike the bell in a spirit of respect and reflection.







» Xixi National Wetland Park Ϫʪع԰

When one thinks of wetlands what typically comes to mind are tracts of forest and marshes untouched by humans reaching out to the horizon. Thats not what youll find at the Xixi National Wetland Park. First of all, these are wetlands that have been painstakingly protected to reflect historya fitting tribute to Hangzhous man and nature dance that has been going on for millennia. Second, the Xixi wetlands are just a short cab ride from downtown, so any alligators you were hoping to find have long since gotten jobs in the city. But, all this ignores the purpose of the wetlands: to preserve, protect, and guide the ancient natural beauty of Hangzhou. Today, just five kilometers from the bustling West Lake, nature lovers can traipse over 11 square kilometers of wetlands that have been cultivated by time and manicured by civilization. Established with the aim of preserving the wetland ecological system, it covers an area of about 10 km2 (4 sq mi). Fish ponds and reed beds have been restored and it is home to many types of birds. It also holds a temple and several historic rural houses.

It might seem somewhat strange to consider the history of a natural wetland, but so deep is the history of this area that you cannot talk about it without talking about the ancient, primitive people that shaped the area. Four to five thousand years ago, the Liangzhu people navigated what was then just a large lake in the spring and summer, enjoying the bounty that floated in from the rivers of Tianmu Mountain. When the waters retreated, they were left with the wetlands.

The history of the wetlands truly began with the construction of the Nanhu Lake for flood storage around 1,800 years ago, but it wasnt until 988 that the Song began to develop Xixi Townhome to fishermen and silkworm farmers alike. Viewed as a utopia, Xixi almost became the location for the Southern Songs royal palace. Fleeing from the failing Northern Song capital, Emperor Gaozong settled in the peaceful haven of Hangzhou and was eager to have his war-torn spirits recuperated. The tranquil waters and serene greenery of Xixi appealed to the emperor. But Phoenix Hill provided a more favorable strategic location and was eventually chosen. The emperor then told his officials: Ϫ¡, which loosely means Save Xixi. So Xixi was left in peace, and the quote today defines the conservation efforts of the wetlands.







» Qiantang River Tidal Bore Ǯ

Located on the lower reaches of the largest river in Zhejiang Province, Qiantang River runs through the central districts of Hangzhou from the southwest to the northeast. On its north is the citys cultural and historical center spreading to the east side of the West Lake, the land that once held the capitals of the ancient Wuyue Kingdom and the glorious Southern Song Dynasty. The southern bank holds the citys urban futureprospected by both the city government and private developers.

If you trace the river upstream to the west, you will encounter its middle and upper sections, Fuchun River () and Xinan River (°). This road that trips through the Hangzhou-Qiandao Express Highway offers a refreshing experience that will immerse you in the beauty of the green mountains and gentle rivers along the way, eventually leading to the lake resort paradise, Qiandao Lake (ǧ), or Thousand-Isle Lake.

Downstream, the Qiantang River runs into the East China Sea at Hangzhou Baya bell-shaped bay that opens up dramatically from a few kilometers to 100 kilometers. The unique shape of the rivers mouth, combined with tidal forces, created the worlds largest river tidal bore, where the difference between high and low tides can be as much as ten meters. Its often described as roaring like thunder and resembling 10,000 horses galloping forward from the horizon. Though it appears every month, the best time to view the biggest tidal bore is around August 18 on the Chinese traditional calendar, which is around mid-September. As a popular tourism activity since as early as the seventh century, the event attracts tourists from all over the country. The best location to view the tidal bore is in Yanguan Town (ι), roughly 50 kilometers on the northeast of Hangzhou. But closer to home in Xiaoshan District, you can also find a tidal bore viewing area at Qiantang River Tidal Bore Watching Resort (Ǯ۳).









» Grand Canal ˺


The Grand Canal (also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the longest canal or artificial river in the world and a famous tourist destination. Starting at Beijing, it passes through Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the city of Hangzhou, linking the Yellow River and Yangtze River. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC, but the various sections were first connected during the Sui dynasty (581C618 AD). The Yuan and Ming dynasties significantly rebuilt the canal and altered its route to supply their capital Beijing.


The total length of the Grand Canal is 1,776 km (1,104 mi). Its greatest height is reached in the mountains of Shandong, at a summit of 42 m (138 ft). Ships in Chinese canals did not have trouble reaching higher elevations after the pound lock was invented in the 10th century, during the Song dynasty (960C1279), by the government official and engineer Qiao Weiyue. The canal has been admired by many throughout history including Japanese monk Ennin (794C864), Persian historian Rashid al-Din (1247C1318), Korean official Choe Bu (1454C1504), and Italian missionary Matteo Ricci (1552C1610).


Historically, periodic flooding of the Yellow River threatened the safety and functioning of the canal. During wartime the high dikes of the Yellow River were sometimes deliberately broken in order to flood advancing enemy troops. This caused disaster and prolonged economic hardships. Despite temporary periods of desolation and disuse, the Grand Canal furthered an indigenous and growing economic market in China's urban centers since the Sui period. It has allowed faster trading and has improved China's economy. The southern portion remains in heavy use to the present day.










» Silk and Porcelain in Hangzhou ݵ˿ʹ


Having been one of the major hubs for silk production for centuries, silk runs through the lifeblood of Hangzhou, and you can find a place to buy it on every street corner. Perhaps more important for shoppers is being able to tell the difference between the more than 14 different types of silk. For instance, chou () is your most common silk; thin and soft, its often made into dresses, blouses, or night gowns. Duan () is a little bit thicker. Its smooth if you stroke it from the right direction, and this is because during weaving, one of the crossed threads is always on top. Duan is often brocaded and made into an autumn or winter qipao.The most famous, though, is hangluo (). Using pure silkworm thread and woven in an extremely complex pattern, the fabric is famed for being light and breathable, perfect for a summer qipao.



Representing the peak of the ancient Chinese art, Southern Song porcelain excelled in both aesthetics and techniques. Especially well known was Southern Song celadon, also known as green ware (), meaning porcelain glazed in a transparent jade green. Light green, gray, or yellow glazed plates, vases and other vessels with simple and elegant styleexquisite Southern Song ceramics were the empires major exports at the time via the maritime Silk Road to Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe, and as far as Africa.




» Must-try dishes from the city of Hangzhou ʳ


West Lake Carp in Sweet and Sour Sauce

This dish brings together the light flavors of carp and the sweet-and-sour sauce flavors for which Chinese cuisine has become so famous. As with many Chinese dishes, there is a story behind the meal. In this case, an evil official murdered a man so he could be with the dead mans wife. Instead, the wife fled town with her husbands brother, determined to avoid falling into the clutches of the evil official. It is said that on that tragic night when they fled, she cooked this dish as both a reward and farewell for her dead husbands brother. The story, though, has a happy ending: the dead mans brother became a powerful official himself and avenged his brothers death. But hey, when you have some tasty carp ahead of you, a happy ending is all but guaranteed anyway. In addition to a splash of Shaoxing wine, the dish also includes ginger and soy, which give it a full-bodied flavor, and, depending on the chefs preferences, it includes vinegar and sugar in varying quantities.




Osmanthus Jelly Cake 𻨸

Osmanthus cakes are the xiaolongbao of desserts: every city has its own recipe. But Hangzhou has them all beat by having an annual festival for appreciating these soft, sweet-scented pastries. Early autumn each year, visitors descend on West Lake and gardens around Hangzhou to view the osmanthus flowers in bloom. Its tradition to set up a table under a fragrant tree and drink Longjing tea, play cards, and eat osmanthus cakes with friends. Legend has it that a scholar brought osmanthus to earth from the moon palace, and a peddler who smelled the flowers from outside the scholars window had the idea of mixing flower petals in the honey-flavored cakes that he sold. You can buy a box at Jiang Nan Chun (ϴ), a traditional dessert shop with several locations in Hangzhou, and from vendors at Manjuelong Village south of West Lake.





Beggars Chicken л

A regular on Hangzhous lists of famous dishes, beggars chicken consists of chicken wrapped in lotus leaf, with a dab of Shaoxing wine to give it extra flavor. Traditionally, it was roasted in mud, though today this step isnt strictly necessary. In bygone eras, this chicken is said to have been cooked at campfires by lowly beggars who could only wrap their chicken in mud and leaves. Surprisingly, the scent proved delightful, cementing this dishs place as a must-have for lovers of Hangzhou cuisine. Today, top notch restaurants continue to use clay to separate this dish from other chicken pretenders (though modern chefs first wrap the chicken in cellophane and have perfected the use of safe clays). The end result is a chicken you can literally crack open, to reveal the feast within, and the chicken is often stuffed with other tasty ingredients like shiitake mushrooms.



Longjing tea

Longjing tea was granted the status of Gong Cha, or imperial tea, in the Qing dynasty by the Kangxi Emperor. It tastes very gentle and sweet. There is a legend about Longjing tea. It is said that Qianlong Emperor, Kangxi Emperor's grandson, visited West Lake during one of his famous holidays. While visiting the temple, he was watching the ladies picking the tea. He was so enamored with their movements that he decided to try it himself. While picking tea he received a message that his mother was ill and wished his immediate return to Beijing. He shoved the leaves he had picked into his sleeve and immediately left for Beijing. Upon his return he immediately went to visit his mother. She noticed the smell of the leaves coming from his sleeves and he immediately had it brewed for her.




Excerpt taken from Hangzhou At A Glance by TWOC. Canal