Hangzhou City Guide

West Lake

An old Chinese saying declares, "There is heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below." Centuries later, Marco Polo called Hangzhou the most enchanting city in the entire world. This is most evident in the West Lake area--the effective, if not geographic, center of Hangzhou. Hills embrace the lake on three sides; the city proper lies to the east. Ancient Chinese people praised the West Lake area as a land of intoxicating beauty. Su Shi, a poet from the Song Dynasty, likened the lake to Xizi, a Chinese Cleopatra, for its allure. The West Lake looks like a shining pearl inlaid on the vast land of China, reputed for beautiful scenery, a multitude of historical sites, brilliant cultural relics, and a profusion of native products. Legend has it that the West Lake was a heavenly jewel fallen to earth. Pragmatists insist that it is a mere lagoon on Hangzhou's western fringe. In any case, West Lake has inspired painters for centuries.

West LakeWest Lake is symbol of Hangzhou as well as one of the most beautiful sights in China. It consists of Outer Lake, North inner lake, Yuehu Lake, West Inner Lake and Lesser South Lake. With an area of 6 square kilometers and a circumference of 15km, West Lake is surrounded on three sides by undulating hills including Wu Hill, Phoenix Hill, Ziyang Hill, Baoahu Hill and Yuhuang Hill. According to the scientific explanation, the site of modern Hangzhou used to be an expanse of sea and the West Lake had been a shallow sea gulf just near the river mouth. Later, sediment gradually blocked the mouth of the bay to form a lagoon. The beauty of the West Lake lies in the lingering charm that survives the change of season in a year, of hours in a day, and of different weathers. In order to display the most beautiful aspects of the West Lake, there are top ten sights selected by local people as the most beautiful, which include the Melting Snow at Broken Bridge, The Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, The Autumn Moon on Calm Lake, Nanping Bell at Dusk, etc.

In addition, from a botanical perspective, the best location to enjoy the West Lake is the Quyuan Garden on its western shore. First landscaped during the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), it was enlarged into a twenty-eight hectare park in 1978. Within it are over two hundred species of lotus - a view of these unusual flowers blooming (July to September) against the serene background of the West Lake may be one of the most stunning floral spectacles you will ever behold. At other times of the year the garden is still marvelous to visit since tea tables, placed in courtyards and pavilions along the lake shore, create an ideal atmosphere to survey one of the most delightfully picturesque spots in China.

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