Hangzhou - the Top City under Heaven

hangzhoustyy02.jpg - 11128 Bytes Hangzhou is one of the top scenic spots in China, most well known for its beautiful Xihu (West Lake). As the saying goes: "In Heaven there is Paradise; on Earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou". Today, Hangzhou is a modern industrial city most famous for its tea and silk production.
Hangzhou City Ratings
** The following ratings are based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.
History(7)   Art(6) Local Culture/Unique Tour(8)
Nature/Scenic(8)    Food/Shopping(9 ) Night Life(5)
Religion(4)    Adventure/Sports(4 ) Reasonable Cost(7)
Recommended Days of Stay: 3 Hangzhou City Map

Quick Facts
Population - 1.8 million urban
When to go
Coldest Months - January with temperature as low as - 10C;
Hottest Months - July, with temperature as high as 37C;
Annual Precipitation - 1450 millimeters (mainly in May and June)
Getting In and Out
2 hours on Express train from Shanghai (Y40 - 50)


Founded over 2200 years ago in the Qin Dynasty, Hangzhou began to prosper as a trading center after the completion of the Grand Canal in 610. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) Hangzhou became an imperial capital. Marco Polo visited Hangzhou in 1230, calling it 'the finest, most splendid city in the world' and wrote 'indeed a voyage on this lake offers more refreshment and delectation than any other experience on earth'. During the Ming Dynasty Hangzhou remained a trading center, visited by many foreigners. Hangzhou was then that the silk industry began to flourish in the city.

Virtually reduced to its ruins by the Taiping Rebellion in 1860-1862, Hangzhou has undergone extensive modernization since 1949, the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Tomb and Temple of Yue Fei* * *
Standing on the north shore of the West Lake, the Tomb and Temple of Yue Fei is a popular place to visit for Chinese tourists. Yue Fei, a general from the Southern Song Dynasty, its well known among all generations of Chinese for his patriotism. As a young boy, Yue Fei was tattooed on his back by his mother 4 Chinese characters 'Jing Zhong Bao Guo', which means 'Serve you country with the utmost loyalty'. Living up to his mother's teachings, General Yue Fei led numerous successful campaigns against the Jin nomads, who had conquered North China. Unfortunately his achievements incurred the jealousness of Prime Minister, Qin Hui, who persecuted General Yue and his oldest son Yue Yun in 1141. Twenty years later Yue Fei's reputation as a patriot was restored and his remains were moved to Hangzhou, where the temple was established for his memory. Inside the temple are stone statues of Qin Hui and his wife kneeling for Yue Fei's forgiveness before his grave, with their hands tied behind their backs. It has been a custom for tourists to spit on the statues everyday to show their despite towards the murderers.

Xiling Seal Engraving Society * * * *
Located on the islet of Gushan Island (Solitary Hill Island) is the headquarters of Xiling Seal-engraving Society. The society was built in 1903 to encourage research into and the practice of seal-carving. Here you can order a seal carved with your name in Chinese.

Wenlan Ge (Pavillion for Storing Imperial Books) * * *
Located on the islet of Gushan Island (Solitary Hill Island) is Wenlan Ge (Pavilion for Storing Imperial Books). The library built in 1699 was one of the seven imperial libraries in the Qing Dynasty. Wenlan Ge was especially built to store the Sikuquanshu, a 33,304 volume Chinese encyclopedia at the order of the Qing Emperor Qianlong, who rescued the library after its destruction by the Taiping Uprising. The book took 10 years to copy by hand.

Hu Qing Yu Tang Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine* * * *
Located east of West Lake, The Hu Qing Yu Tang Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine was one of the two best-known herbal medicine stores in the Qing Dynasty. All exhibits have titles in English.

Zhejiang Provincial Museum * * *
Zhejiang Provincial Museum is located on the islet of Gushan Island (Solitary Hill Island). The Museum houses exhibits illustrating the history of Hangzhou as well as other parts of Zhejiang Province. On display are copies of ancient stone-engraved maps of Hangzhou, wood blocked illustrations of the 'Ten Prospects', the brick from the Leifeng (Thunder Peak) Pagoda with its tiny paper scroll, as well as information on the silk-making technology. One of the most remarkable exhibits is the 7000-year-old cultivated rice, which is by far the earliest discovered in China. A very interesting piece of exhibit is the skeleton of a whale beached in Zhejiang. According to folklore such events were often associated with disasters. For example when a whale was beached in the late 1200s, a terrible fire broke out in Hangzhou after some locals cut up the whale and ate its meat.

Local Culture/Unique Tour
China Tea Museum * * * * *
Located about 4 km west of West Lake is Tea Museum with a great variety of tea exhibits.

Silk Museum * * * * *
Located just south of the West Lake, the Silk Museum has exhibits of the oldest weaving machines in China, ancient silk and Ming and Qing Dynasty silk costumes. The most remarkable piece is a silk fragment from 2715 B.C. Although offering good learning experiences, the Silk Museum is not the ideal shopping place for silk. The prices are high for the fine quality silk.

Du Jinsheng Silk Weaving Factory * * * *
Located downtown Du Jinsheng Silk Weaving Factory is worth a visit to learn about the silk making process.

Hangzhou Silk Printing and Dyeing Complex* * *
Hangzhou Silk Printing and Dyeing Complex is also a good place to learn about the silk making process. However, it is a little far from the city center.

Longjing Cun (Dragon Well Village)* *
About 10 km west of the West Lake is the area where Hangzhou's most famous tea, Longjing or Dragon Well, is grown. If you happen to visit Longjing Cun in late March or early April, the tea-leaf picking season, you will see farmers dressed in bright blue or pink bending over the dark-green bushes to pick tea leaves. Even if you miss the tea-leaf picking season, a visit to Longjing Village is worthwhile. The scenery along the way is beautiful and the air is fresh. You will most likely run into local villagers on the way to the village. They are very friendly and will oftentimes invite you to their homes for a cup of tea. The experience is interesting because the villagers will answer any question you have about Hangzhou. They will also show you the tea-leave drying process. Each household in the village has a huge pot to use for just that. At the end, the villager will probably ask you to buy their own supply of Longjing Tea. They will tell you their tea is of top quality. Don't feel obligated to buy anything if you don't feel comfortable. You can definitely offer to pay for the tea you had and say thank you and good-bye. If you do want to buy it, don't feel bad about haggling. Chances are some villagers will ask for almost double the fair price.

Song Dynasty Town * *
The newly built Song Dynasty Town has demonstrations of Song weaving, pottery-making and puppet shows.

Local Events
- International Boat Festival
-Traditional Medicine Festival

Liu He (Six Harmonies) Pagoda * * * *
The famous octagonal pagoda, first built in 970, stands high on Yuelun Montain by the Qiantang River to the south of Hangzhou. The brick and wood structure, a masterpiece of traditional Chinese architecture with a height of 60 meters appears to have 13 stories from outside, but actually it has only seven. A stone staircase leads to the top, where one can enjoy a magnificent view of the Qiantang River and the city of Hangzhou.

Bao Chun Pagoda * * * *
Dating from 968 AD, the needlelike Bao Chun Pagoda is the most visible landmark for Hangzhou. Because of its old age, it has exhibited a tendency to collapse. The most recent rebuilding was in 1933.

Fei lai Feng (Peak that Flew from Afar)* * * *
The peak got its name because it resembles a holy mountain in India, seemingly transported to China. The peak is almost 500 feet high. It contains four caves and about 380 Buddhist rock carvings, most of them created 600 years ago during the Yuan Dynasty.

The most famous caving is of a famous Laughing Buddha, carved about 1,000 years ago. These carvings are considered by scholars as the most important of its kind in southern China. They are more animated, realistic, and gaudy than the Buddhist sculptures done earlier on a more extensive scale in northern China.

Botanical Garden* * *
With 3,700 species of plants, including 120 varieties of bamboo, this garden is one of the largest of its kind.

Duan Qiao (Broken Bridge)* * *
Duan Qiao is where the Bai Causeway ends. It got its name because when winter snow first melt the bridge appears from a distance to be broken.

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon * * * * *
West Lake is the symbol of Hangzhou and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon defines West Lake. It consists of three water pagodas, each about 6 feet tall. They have been floating on the surface of West Lake Since 1621. Each pagoda has five openings. On evenings when the full moon shines on the lake, candles are placed inside. The effect is four moons shimmering on the lake.

Taking a cruise on West Lake is one of the most refreshing and relaxing experiences. As Marco Polo stated, " A voyage on this lake offers more refreshment and pleasure than any other experience on earth. On one side it skirts the city so that your barge commands a distant view of all its grandeur and lovelinessˇ­On the lake itself is an endless procession of barges thronged with pleasure seekers." Image yourself cruising on the lake where three pagodas are floating and twelve moons are shimmering on the surface. No wonder people call Hang Zhou "the Paradise on Earth".

Bridge of Nine Turnings & Flower and Bird Pavillion & Xiaoying-zhou (Island of Little Ocean)* * * *
In the center of West Lake, there is an island called the Island of Little Ocean. It was formed during a silt-dredging operation in 1607. Its form is that of a wheel with four spokes, its bridges and dikes creating four enclosed lotus-laden ponds. The main route into the hub of this wheel is the Bridge of Nine Turnings, built in 1727.

Located in the center of the Island is the magnificent Flower and Bird Pavilion, one of the most graceful structures in China. Although it isn't an ancient work, dating only from 1959, it is a superb rendition of the best in traditional Chinese architecture.

Jade Spring* * *
Jade Spring is one of Hang Zhou's most famous springs. It is for gold fish and flower lovers, as multi-colored ornamental fish are bred here.

Hupao Spring Park * * *
This park is famous for its water that will not overflow from a full cup even if you add coins to it. The high surface tension will also support a carefully placed Chinese coin.

Food/ Shopping
Famous Local Restaurant
Lou Wai Lou restaurant has good local food.

Antique Shopping
- Wu Shan Road
Wushan Road is a good place for serious antiques. It has five stores.

Shopping for Unique Local Products
- Hangzhou Sichou Shichang (wholesale silk market)
- Bird and Flower Market

General Shopping
- Hong Zhong Department Store
Good for general shopping.

Lingyin (Soul's Retreat) Temple * * * * *
Located 9 km away from the city west of West Lake, Lingyin Temple is one of the largest and most significant Chan (Zen) temples in China. Founded in 326 by an Indian monk named Huili, the temple originally had 72 halls and 18 pavilions, once housing 3000 monks. Unfortunately, the only buildings left today are the Celestial King's Hall and the 33.6-meter-high Great Buddha Hall. Lingyin Temple is visited today by pilgrims from all over the world and local worshippers. Worship the Buddha and make a wish there. It is believed that Lingyin Temple is one of the top temples for making your wish come true.

Lingyin Temple is also famous for the rocky formation to the left of the path leading to the temple, known as the Fei Lai Feng (Peak That Flew There). Legend has it that the peak was once part of a holy mountain in India before it magically flew to Hangzhou. Along the cliff of Fei Lai Feng there are over 380 Buddhist ../images carved in the rock, dating back to as early as the 10th century.

Close to the temple is the Taoguang Hermitage, named after a hermit from the Tang Dynasty. Take a walk through the bamboo groves. You can also take a cable-car (one of the first in China) to the summit and enjoy a nice view of Hangzhou.
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