Hangzhou 杭州 : West Lake 西湖

Posted on May 22, 2011


Today I visited the most beautiful site of one of China’s most beautiful cities (their words not mine, though I do agree!) – West Lake, or in hanzi, 西湖.

One of most striking features of Hangzhou is that unlike many Chinese cities – which limit their parks and nature to designated areas – Hangzhou is built around it most distinctive natural feature, a large lake with islands, surrounded by mountains. This adaption to nature makes for a city centre lined with willow trees and flowers, and boasting lake views from many of the higher buildings and traditional pagodas.

It took me about 5 hours to walk the perimeter of the lake, including stops at several of the “Poetically Named Scenic Spots”. These are 10 carefully named sites that can each be remembered by a four character epithet (in Chinese). In English, they sound just a little melodramatic and corny, but they are genuinely beautiful scenic spots! They are:

  • Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
  • Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷)
  • Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月)
  • Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (斷橋殘雪)
  • Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
  • Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
  • Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
  • Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
  • Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
  • Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚鐘)

The other thing that strikes me about Hangzhou is that they have really embraced their local history, and so there is a very strong sense of architectural heritage within the CBD. Sometimes I find that China is so eager about its present and future that it can be hard to learn more about its past. Areas like Hefang Street, while touristy, have preserved some of China’s historical charm – and charm is not a word that can often be applied to a city of 6 million+ !

Today was my first day exploring Hangzhou’s city centre because I have been working and studying every other day, teaching English as a foreign language. I am really loving the opportunity to work with such enthusiastic students as well as the chance to study some education and linguistics theory. I’ll write more about teaching english in my next blog post!

Here are some photos from today:

Posted in: Photography, Travel