Located in the northern part of Zhejiang Province and south of Hangzhou Bay, with its long history and many celebrities, Shaoxing is a famous historical and cultural city that boasts beautiful lakes and rivers.
Legend has it that as early as 4,000 years ago, Da Yu (Yu the Great) of the Xia Dynasty (2100-1600BC) went to Shaoxing for water-control projects. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), Goujian, king of the Yue State, made Shaoxing the capital and named it Yuechi. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), it was renamed Shaoxing, which has lasted until now. Shaoxing is also the birthplace of many famous scholars, writers and artists, including Cai Yuanpei, a famous educator, late premier Zhou Enlai, and Lu Xun, the novelist, as well as the heroine Qiu Jin.
Shaoxing is world famous for its gorgeous scenes along its waters. Its many rivers, big and small, span 1,900 kilometers, running vertically and horizontally -- just like streets in northern China -- with various stone bridges at their crossroads. Shaoxing boasts 229 ancient bridges, which constitute a site rich in man-made landscapes that have won the city the title "Hometown of Bridges."
Residential houses in Shaoxing are of a simple style and brilliant in color, with blue bricks, gray walls and black corridor columns, retaining the typical style of Song architecture (960-1279). Bathed in the bright sunshine, the structures look light and handy, simple but elegant.
In Shaoxing, there are many places worth visiting. Tourists can climb Houshan Mountain, visit Da Yu's Mausoleum, Censer Hill and Qinwang Mountain on its outskirts or the ancestral residence of Zhou Enlai, Lu Xun memorial and former residence of Cai Yuanpei.
Da Yu's Mausoleum, a temple and mausoleum complex in honor of China's "great grandfather" Emperor Yu, took over 100 years to erect. The East Lake lies around 6 kilometers east of the city center, featuring beautiful, natural rock formations. The Orchid Pavilion, built in 1548, is considered one of Shaoxing's top "must-see" spots.
The Orchid Pavilion is located at the foot of Lanzhu Hill, 12.5 kilometers southwest of Shaoxing city. During the Spring and Autumn Period, Goujian, the king of the Yue State, planted orchids there; during the Han (206BC-AD220), a post pavilion was erected (hence its name).
In the spring of 353 during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), Wang Xizhi, a famous calligrapher, invited his friends there for a party.
As they recited poems while drinking, Wang was challenged to compose a preface to immortalize the moment. Wang, who was in high spirits, wrote an article called "Prologue to the Orchid Pavilion Collection". Eminent and praiseworthy in terms of calligraphy and literary talent, this article became a masterpiece and Wang was crowned as the "sage of calligraphers" of the time, bringing the pavilion its prominence. Today, the Orchid Pavilion is regarded as a Mecca for calligraphers.
Da Yu's Mausoleum and Yu Wang Temple
Six kilometers southeast of Shaoxing stands an ancient complex that comprises a tomb, temple and memorial hall built to commemorate Da Yu. It is named Da Yu's Mausoleum after the ancient Chinese hero who conquered a disastrous flood.
Yu, was is said to have lived in the 21st century BC, is the earliest recorded historical figure associated with Shaoxing. In his time, a great flood is believed to have inundated the central plains. After his father failed to control the floods through dikes built to contain the waters, Yu was ordered by King Shun to succeed his father. Instead of following in the footsteps of his father by building more dikes, Yu made local dukes and commoners produce some channels and engage in other projects to drain the floodwaters into the sea. It is said that Yu was so dedicated to his work that during his eight years away from home he passed by his home three times but did not stop. After eight years of hard work, the floods were finally brought under control.
According to records, Yu came to Shaoxing twice in his lifetime. The first time was when he came to control floods and met with dukes of the flooded areas on a mountain called Maoshan in Shaoxing to discuss the local problems. After the meetings, Maoshan was renamed Mount Guiji, meaning, "meet to talk about important matters." Yu came to Shaoxing a second time on an inspection tour after founding the legendary Xia Dynasty. Yu became the first king of this dynasty and died in Shaoxing. He was buried at the foot of Guiji.
Da Yu Mausoleum faces west, with a stone archway at its entrance. A 30-meter paved path starting at the entrance leads to a pavilion containing a large stone tablet with the three characters that mean "Da Yu Mausoleum." The Yu Wang Temple northwest of the tomb is a magnificent building. On its central axis from south to north is the meridian gate, Memorial Hall and Main Hall, standing higher along the line of the mountain. Stone steps lead into the beautifully decorated Main Hall with carved beams and painted rafters. A five-meter statue of Da Yu stands in the center of the hall.
East Lake is located in the eastern suburbs of Shaoxing city, 3 kilometers from the city center. Featuring an elegant landscape of lakes and mountains and fantastic stones (together with the West Lake in Hangzhou and Nanhu Lake in Jiaxing), they are known as the Three Famous Lakes in Zhejiang Province.
East Lake used to be a huge, rocky hill. During the Han Dynasty, it served as a quarry. Later, in the Sui (581-618), more stone was quarried from the mountain to build the Great Wall. After thousands of years of excavation, some parts of the mountain were hollowed out, forming a unique scene.
The scenic area consists of Taogong Cave, Xiantao Cave, Tingqiu Pavilion and other spots. "Taogong Dong" is located at the foot of the hill with cliffs rising 50-60 meters on each side. There are nine bridges on the lake and many pavilions dot its banks. Visitors can soak up the wonderful scenery on a boat ride on the lake.