Rippling waters shimmering on a sunny day, Misty mountains shrouded in rain; Plain or gaily dressed like Xizi; West Lake is always alluring." These are the words used by the celebrated Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo to describe Hangzhou's West Lake. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List on June, 24, 2011, by the committee of the 35th World Heritage Conference in Paris.
Lying in Hangzhou City of Zhejiang Province, the West Lake is a world famous tourist spot. Embraced by green hills on three sides, the lake covers an area of 5.6 square kilometers and has a perimeter of 15 kilometers. Legend has it that theWest Lakewas 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. In ancient times, this place had been an shallow sea gulf before it evolved into a residual lake.
The whole lake is divided into 5 sections, namely the Outer Lake, North Inner Lake, Yue Lake and Little South Lake, by Gu Hill, Sudi Causeway, Baiti Causeway and Ruangong Mound.
The name of West Lake was fixed as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Before the Tang Dynasty, the lake had various names such as Wulin Water, Mingsheng Lake, Jinzhong Lake, Longchuan, Qianyuan, Qiantang Lake, and Shang Lake, etc. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Chinese renowned poet Su Dongpo wrote a poem to praise the West Lake and compared it to Xizi, a Chinese legendary beauty. Since then, the West Lake has another elegant name Xizi Lake.
The beauty of the West Lake lies in its lingering charm that survives the change of seasons in a year and of hours in a day. Among its beautiful sights, the most famous sites are the Ten Sights in West Lake and the Ten New Sights in West Lake, which are known as the Double-Ten Sights in West Lake. The Ten Sights in West Lake are Melting Snow at Broken Bridge, Spring Dawn at Sudi Causeway, Sunset Glow over Leifeng Hill, Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard, Autumn Moon on Calm Lake, Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows, Viewing Fish at Flowers Harbor, Evening Bell at Nanping Hill, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, and Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds. The Ten New Sights in West Lake are Dream Spring of Hupao, Tea-tasting at Dragon Well, Gem Bathed in Flowing Rosy Clouds, Heaven Wind over Wushan Mountain, Scud over Yuhuang, Yellow Dragon Spitting Greenness, Rains of Sweet-scented Osmanthus Over Hills, Trees in Mist by the Nine Rivulets, Ruan Mound in Green, Cloud Dwelling and Bamboo Path.
The West Lake is also famous for its historical flavor with numerous celebrities. National heroes Yue Fei, Yu Qian, Zhang Ruoshui and Qiu Jin were all buried along the West Lake, leaving their illustrious names and noble spirits in the green hills and blue waters. Moreover, many ancient poets and artists, such as Bai Juyi, Su Dongpo, Liu Yong and Pan Tianshou, had also left countless famous writings.
Regarded by many as China’s most beautiful lake, standing on its shores, it’s easy to understand Su’s allusion to Xizi, reputedly ancient China’s most beautiful woman. The subject of many of the country’s most famous literary and artistic works, and the inspiration for countless more, West Lake has for centuries been working its charm on all those who gaze upon it.
Located in Hangzhou, a medium-sized city three and a half hours’ drive from Shanghai, the lake is a popular day trip included on many Shanghai travel itineraries. Visitors to the lake can plan to spend their time viewing the "Ten Scenes of the West Lake". A collection of ten scenic views formed during the Southern Song Dynasty, they are distributed around and within the lake, and serve to show the charms of the West Lake – through a use of varying locations, varying seasons, and varying times of day. Each scene is unique, and when taken together, are said to present the essence of West Lake scenery, and form the core of any West Lake tour.
1.Spring Dawn at Su Causeway The Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, which is a thin strip of land nearly three kilometers long covered with peach and weeping willow trees. In spring, with the lakeside sparkling in the morning dew, birds cheerfully chirping among swaying willow branches, the scent of peach blossoms wafting through the air, you'll question whether you are in the midst of paradise.
2.Breeze at Crooked Courtyard This typical West Lake scene has earned its fame since the Southern Song Dynasty, when the lakeside area with an abundant growth of lotus off its shores was known as Crooked Courtyard, and was the location of a brewery. People said the smell of lotus flowers and wine blended by the cool lake breezes was intoxicating. Nowadays the brewery is gone, and the area has been turned into a big park, but plenty of lotus plants still bloom off its shores. They stand gracefully erect in the lake, as if they knew they had visitors coming to admire their beauty.
3.Autumn Moon on Calm Lake At the western end of Bai Causeway is located a lakeside park which houses a stone tablet bearing the etched calligraphy of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, which reads: "Autumn Moon on Calm Lake". The lake is a special place to appreciate the moon and the effect of moonlight on the land. The moon seems especially bright over the waters. The hills look purplish bathed in the moonlight. The best time for nighttime viewing is on Mid-Autumn Day.
4.Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge The Melting Snow is the most romantic scene of the ten must-see around the West Lake on the Broken Bridge. The stone-arched Broken Bridge is where the characters of a famous Chinese folktale, Xu Xian and a beautiful girl, who is actually a white snake, first met and fell in love with each other. After a snowfall, when the snow on the more exposed side has melted, with the shaded side remaining white, it looks as if a long white belt has been ripped apart on the bridge, thus earning the name "Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge". The Broken Bridge is one of the 'three unusualnesses' on the lake. The 'three unusualnesses' are 'The Broken Bridge is not Broken', 'The Long Bridge is not long' and 'The Solitary Hill is not solitary'.
The Story of the White Snake
This is a story adopted from a classical Chinese novel. But the story in the play is totally a different account to the origin novel. This is a traditional play but may have different arias with different performing styles.
Once upon a time in the Mountain E-Mei, there were White Snake and Black Snake. White Snake changed into a very beautiful girl, named BAI Su-Zheng (Qing Yi). Black Snake also became a lovely maid, named Xiao Qing (Wu Dan). They came to West Lake of Hang Zhou (Hangchow) for a visit. They were attracted by the beauty of the scene. There over the Duan-Qiao bridge came a young man named XU Xian (Xiao Sheng). BAI immediately fell into an unrequited love. To help her sister, Xiao Qing set a trick to let it rain and they took a tree as shelter. XU Xian opened his umbrella and came near. When he saw them, he offered his umbrella and asked them where they lived. On a quick action, Xiao Qing told him they lived somewhere near WestLake. A boat was then in sight. XU Xian called, paid the boatman and asked him to ship the two ladies to their destination and himself home. He lived with his sister's family. On the boat, they talked a little. BAI Su-Zheng began to know XU Xian a little more. The rain gradually stopped. When the boat made its first stop, Xiao Qing made it rained again. So XU Xian told them to keep the umbrella and he would take it back next day. Xiao Qing told XU that nearby there was a red mansion, which was their home.
Next day, BAI made a red mansion by her magic. XU went there as promised. Having him seated, Xiao Qing made him and BAI some tea. They exchanged a few sentences. And Xiao Qing asked XU whether he had married. When receiving a negative reply, Xiao Qing told him that BAI was also unmarried and suggested they two got married. When the three-attendee wedding ceremony was on, the Abbot, named Fa Hai, of a remote Buddhist temple, Jin Shan (GoldenMountain) Temple, sensed something and then found what was going on. He pledged to capture the white snake.
After the marriage, the three of them moved to Zhen Jiang, a city on the YangtseRiver where BAI provided her husband with a medicine shop. She used her magical powers so that all medicines became especially potent, and the business in consequence prospered exceedingly. Fa Hai found Xu Xian there and warned that his wife was a snake. He suggested Xu a way to find her real self, a festival alcohol drink for the September 9th Day. September 9th was crucial for the two snakes. There would be a moment when they had to change back to their real selves. Xiao Qing suggested to BAI that they both went back to Mountain E-Mei for the day. BAI did not want Xu sense any unusualness. She believed that her magic power could prevent her from the changing and told Xiao Qing to go alone. Xu Xian bought the festival alcohol to celebrate the day and asked BAI to drink with him. Did not want to disappoint her husband and thought she still could control herself, she agreed and finished a cup. But XU asked her a second cup. The second cup made her feel awful. She rushed to the bedroom and warned XU did not get in. Xu Xian saw her in her old form in the bed, and simply just died of fright. When Xiao Qing came back, she waked BAI up. Then risking her life, White Snake went to steal the glossy ganoderma, which was heavily guarded. Moved by her brave and true love, the owner of the drug released her and gave her the drug.
The life of Xu Xian was restored. He suddenly remembered what the Abbot said to him. Recovered from the illness, XU Xian went to the Temple. To separate him from his wife, Fa Hai forced him to become a monk. BAI, along with Xiao Qing, chased to JinShanTemple and begged Fa Hai to let her husband go but got refused. Then in anger, she gathered together a great army of underwater creatures to attack the monastery and used water to submerge the temple. Fa Hai had a magic outer vestment, which made the mountain to grow so that the waterlevel was kept under the temple. Fa Hai also had the magic to command heavenly solders. BAI had been pregnant. She could not fight the battle any longer.
BAI and Xiao Qing fled to WestLake to where they first met Xu Xian. Xiao Qing was very angry at Xu for his unfaithfulness and pledged to kill him when she saw him. XU was secretly released by a young monk when the two sides were fighting and happened to come to the same place. When they met him, Xiao Qing was for attacking him with her sword, but BAI held her back and told XU the truth. With fully understanding each other, they went home.
Fa Hai went to the heaven and asked the heaven emperor to help him. A powerful fighter with a magic lantern was commanded to assist Fa Hai. BAI was given birth to a son. One day, XU Xian went to buy a hat for his son. The hat was actually the lantern, which made BAI Su-Zheng physically under the spell of the fighter. The White Snake was then imprisoned under the Thunder Peak Pagoda by WestLake. Black Snake fled to her original place and practiced her magic. Several years later her magic was strong enough to take the revenge. She managed to destroy the Pagoda and rescued White Snake. White Snake reunited with her husband and her son. Black Snake then defeated Fa Hai and had him swallowed by a crab. They live together happily forever.
5.Orioles Singing in the Willows Retreating from the legendary bridge, here we come to the Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows, an imperial garden built up in the Southern Song Dynasty. Now the once-imperial garden has been turned into a park open to all. Featuring green willows and singing orioles, there are lawns, pavilions, and bridges that are very impressive, as well.
6.Viewing Fish and Lotus Ponds at Flower Pond Another spot to check up the vivid life and catch up with birds chirping out of the ten charms of the West Lake is the Viewing Fish and Lotus Ponds at Flower Pond Over here Flower Pond Park occupies an area of twenty-one hectares on a peninsula in the southwest corner of the lake. In its heart is the Red Fish Pond, where people can relax to the sight of brightly colorful fish swimming around and to the brisk melody of chirpy birdsong. To stay with nature is a highly enjoyable experience.
7.Sunset Glow over Leifeng Pagoda Leifeng Pagoda is another renowned scenic spot in Hangzhou. Originally built in the 10th century, Leifeng Pagoda used to stand in front of Jingxi Temple on Nanping Mountain; though failed to stand the test of time, the Pagoda collapsed in early 1900s. In 2002, Leifeng Pagoda was reconstructed; then comes back the typical Sunset Glow over Leifeng Pagoda, one of the ten charms of West Lake, as the Pagoda looks especially majestic when surrounded by the golden hues of the setting sun. With combination of a traditional aesthetic style and modern architecture techniques, Leifeng Pagoda affords a view of West Lake in its entirety.
8.Twin Peaks Soaring through the Clouds While it's difficult to take your eyes off the tranquil waters, take time to gaze at the skies above West Lake. You'll be rewarded with the sight of two limestone mountains past the northern edge of the lake, one to the northeast and one to the northwest, five kilometers apart. On a drizzling day in spring or autumn, the two peaks come and go amongst the drifting rain clouds. And here comes the name of Twin Peaks Soaring through the Clouds, another scene you cannot miss around the West Lake.
9.Evening Bell at Nanping Mountain Personally I award the title of the Most Poetic to the Evening Bell at Nanping Mountain, out of the ten collections of the West Lake views. Nanping Mountain stretches along the southern bank of the Lake. At dusk, with the sun slowly drifting into the Lake on the west, a huge bell at Jingxi Temple, will ring its farewell to the last sunbeam of the day. With the prolonged bell sound reverberating across the Lake, the peaceful and sacred air offers you a perfect occasion for meditation.
10.Three Pools Mirroring the Moon If you can catch one of the tour coaches that leave after dusk, the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon should not to be missed. Just off the southern shore of the Island of Little Oceans stand three small pagodas that seem to float on the water. The three pagodas mark the three deepest points in the lake and the deepest point is called 'tan' in Chinese, meaning 'deep pool'. When you see the pagodas, you may easilly find they're hollow. They are five holes in each. On the Mid-Autumn Day, candles are lit in the pagodas and the holes are covered with white sheet of paper. Looking from a distance, they are like small moons. In eachpagoda, you can see five moons. With their reflections, there are ten. Three pagodas together, they're 30. With the real moon in the sky and its reflection in water, you can see 32 moons, big or small, true or flase. That's why the name 'Three Pools Mirroring the Moon'.
In recent years, the people of Hangzhou have selected ''Ten New Scenes of the West Lake,'' as well as built a few new attractions -for example a tea museum, a silk museum, etc. The ten new scenes are beautiful, and the new attractions will leave you with a greater appreciation for the area's famous commodities. But if you only have a day, it's tough to argue with the tried and true.
The West Lake is like a shining pearl inlaid on the vast land of China, with 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 is both a great tourist attraction and a high inspiration for artistic creations.
Travel Tips: 1. West Lake is a large open lake area with some scenic spots around it charging admission fee. For example:
CNY30 (Temple of Soul's Retreat) CNY45 (Peak Flown From Afar)
Y1, Y2, 7/K7, Y13, K807/K837
2. To the West Lake, visitors can easily find bus routes at Hangzhou Railway Station, Huanglong Sports Center, Wulin Square or East Railway Station, and get off at Su Di, Ling Yin, Duan Qiao, Qu Yuan Feng He, Yue Miao, Shuang Feng, Long Jing Si, Yan'an Road, Hu Bin or Xihu Dadao Stations. Available bus routes are 4/K4, 6/K6, 7/K7, 15/K15,16/K16,18/K18, 21/K21, 27/K27, 28/K28, 81/K81, K504, 527/K527, Y1, Y2, Y3, Y4, Y5, Y6, Y7, Y8, Y9.
3. Round-the-lake battery car: CNY40 per person The battery car can stop at any place along the route and it takes about 70 minutes to round the lake. 4. Sightseeing bus: Y9 is double-decker tourism bus running around the West Lake. Ticket is CNY 5 for the whole journey. The starting and end point is Huanglong Tourism Dispatch Center. 5. The free tourism bus line has been opened between the West Lake and Xixi Wetland. The bus starts from Leifeng Pagoda and departs every half an hour from 09:00 to 14:30, back from Xixi Wetland from 11:00 to 17:00. 6. Free shuttle bus from Leifeng Pagoda to Hangzhou Polar Ocean Park is also available. There are four buses a day from 09:30, not timely. The last bus leaves at 15:00 and will be back from the ocean park at 16:00.