10 Things You Should Know About Hangzhou

Hangzhou is the main city of Zhejiang province with rich of history in just one city. Here are some of the fun facts you should know about Hangzhou.

1) West Lake is actually everything about Hangzhou

West Lake is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province in eastern China. It is divided into five sections by three causeways. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake.

West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics, and it has also been among the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden designers. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, described as having "influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries" and reflecting "an idealized fusion between humans and nature"

As the No. 1 of ten scenes of the West Lake, the Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring is intoxicating and delighting. With a length of 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers), the Su Causeway was constructed under the guidance of the great poet Su Dongpo in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). There are six bridges along the causeway, including the Crossing Rainbow Bridge, the Eastern Lakeside Bridge, the Suppressing Dike Bridge, the Viewing Hills Bridge, the Locking Waves Bridge, and the Reflecting Ripples Bridge. There is a willow or a peach tree every certain distance. In spring, the green willow buds and the pink peach blossoms will take the breath of tourists away, hence the fame.

The Winery Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer in the northwest of the lake is a time-honored scenic spot. It is said that there used to be a winery surrounded by lotus flowers in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) there. The fragrance of the lotus flowers and the aroma of wine waft coherently through the summer air, hence the name of the scenic spot. Presently, the scenic spot comes in five parts, including the Yuehu Lake, the Bamboo Garden, the Lakeside Woods, the Winery Yard, and the Lotus Pool. With a variety of lotus flowers dancing around, a culture of imperial wine back to the Southern Song Dynasty unfolding for you and a sight of southern-China garden coming your way, what an enjoyably unforgettable experience you have!

West Lake has been an ideal place to appreciate the glorious full moon since ancient times. The Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn is to the west of the Bai Causeway by the West Outer Lake. It consists of the Imperial Stele Pavilion, an octagonal pavilion, a platform over the lake, and some other buildings. The broad platform is a perfect spot to admire the full moon. In addition, there is a Xiling Calligraphy and Painting Gallery. Tourists can enjoy the beautiful moonlight, and feel the atmosphere of traditional Chinese culture.

The Orioles Singing in the Willows Scene is located at the Qingbo Gate to the southeast of the Outer West Lake. It was the largest imperial garden called the Landscape Gathering Garden in the Southern Song Dynasty. Along the nearby dike are willows of various species. At the center of the garden is the Orioles House. Near the Orioles is a gigantic bird cage called the "Birds' Paradise". In March, tourists can appreciate the flying willow branches while listening to the warbling of orioles. It is intoxicating!

The Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge in Winter scenic spot is at the foot of the Precious Stone Hill to the east end of the Bai Causeway. Built in 1921, the single-span Broken Bridge is 9.6 yards (8.8 meters) long, and 9.4 yards (8.4 meters) wide. When seen from the Baoshi Mountain after snow, the bridge seems as if it were broken because the snow in the middle part has melted while the snow at the ends is still lingering. The remaining white snow is glistening in the sunshine. It is fabulous!

Located at the Red Carp Pond to the south of the Su Causeway, the Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor Scenic Spot is a large park of over 49 acres (20 hectares). It is made up of five scenic spots: flower harbor, the red carp pond, the peony garden, the great lawn, and groves. The whole park is surrounded by the flower harbor, a sightseeing river way that connects the West Inner Lake with the South Lake. The red carp pond at the center of the park is swarming with red carp. Tourists can lean on the rails of a zigzag bridge to appreciate them. To the west of the red carp pond are exuberant groves and the Peony Garden centering on the Peony Pavilion. When these peonies are in full blossom, the gentle breeze blows the petals onto the surface of the lake, forming an amazing scene. To the north of the red carp pond is a large lawn interspersed with arbors for tourists to have a rest. For centuries, the Viewing Fish at Flower Pond has provided natural beauty and cultural connotations for emperors and poets who have expressed their admiration through poems, calligraphy, and drawings.

The above are the highlights of the West Lake. However, in my opinion the water is dirty and the air pollution in Hangzhou is quite bad too. You will feel the heat but you have no idea where is the sun is because it is covered by the haze.

This map will help you better where you should go to witness the highlights of the west lake.

There is a boat ride which you can enjoy a small part of the west lake. They only allow you to go around a small area since the lake is so big. It is an battery powered boat which is very eco friendly and most importantly, saving your energy from pedaling. On the side note, please keep your hands off the water. It is so dirty. I don't understand why would someone want to touch it.

The price is CNY40/hour/boat. One boat can fit 4 pax. There is also a deposit of CNY100.00 which they will refund to you once you are done. It is for in case you ride more than 1 hour and they will deduct it from the deposit.

2) More than 90% of the iconic spots are around the West Lake

This lake is 2.51 miles square is so big which most of the iconic places are built around this lake. There are 4 parts around the West Lake which are known as North Hill, West Hill, South Hill and Wu Hill.

At North Hill, you will see this famous Yue Fei Temple, Baochu Pagoda and Yellow Cave Park. At West Hill, there will be Longjing Tea Plantation, China Tea Museum, Lingyin Temple, Flying Peak and Tiger Spring. While at Wu Hill, you will be expecting Qinghefang Walking Street and Nanshan Bar Street.
Lastly at South Hill, Leifeng Pagoda will be the one that is most expected to go. Others would be Jingci Temple, Prince Park, China Silk Museum, Hangzhou Southern Song and Imperial Klin Museum.
Even shopping malls and major hotels are built around it. So for easier transportation access, stay somewhere near to the west lake. It will save you a lot of trouble and give you the maximum conveniences.

3) West Lake is more than just a lake for the locals

Let my pictures and video clip to do all the talking. You will understand what I truly mean.

It is the old folks playground. I really see them happily retired and enjoying the true meaning of life.

4) Island on the lake - Three Pools Mirroring the Moon

There are four beautiful islands in West Lake and the largest one of called named Three Pools or The Lesser Yingzhou Isle. The isle itself is a man made landscape from 1607 and its beauty is almost beyond imagination. The delightfulness and richness of gardening and harmony is astonishing. 
The islet itself has a minor lake so it’s an islet in a lake with a lake you are entering when here. The isle was in the beginning, during the Wu– and Yue Kingdoms, a Buddhist monastery called Baoning Temple. Later on, in the Ming Dynasty, the isle was surrounded by a dike enclosing the water round the monastery. Entering the island you will find lovely small pavilions and a very well balanced Chinese garden landscape.

A small zigzag bridge will take you further out on the lake on the island. At the southern part on the island, rising from the water, there are three 2-meters high and hollow stone pagodas from the late 11th century. On a full moon night people can row out to the pagodas, place a candle in the stone and a light will come out of the five equally spaced windows reflecting the moon into the water and making it look like there were several magic moons in the water.

The design of the isle is rather delicate and stunning. The flowers here are different in all the four seasons. Customarily, Santan Yinyue was associated to be a fairy on the water. The name three pools denote to the three pear-shaped pagodas organized in the water in the shape of triangle. Established in the year 1090 by the public official and the poet, Su Dongpo, the purpose of the pagodas were to point out that lotus plants and water chestnuts were not permitted to be developed in the area to avert silt from accumulating up in the lake. He built these pagodas in the Northern Song Dynasty. However, the pagodas were destroyed in the Yuan Dynasty. Far along, through the rule of King Wanli in the Ming Reign, the three pagodas were reconstructed. The prevailing ones were rebuilt in the year of 1699 in the 38th year of Ruler Kangxi's control in the Qing Dynasty and a stele with his engraving was created near to this site.

The pagodas are about 2 meters tall with hollow insides. The pagodas are dispersed as an equilateral triangle’s angles with each side being 62 meters tall. The middle of each pagoda has five round holes, into which candles or lamps can be positioned, particularly on mid-autumn nights when the lively moon hang down in the sky. When the round holes are enclosed with pieces of thin paper, rays of light will mirror on the water through the holes. The moonlight, lake light and the light of the lamp adds vivacity and charisma to one another. Presently, pagodas can be clearly seen as a prominent symbol of the West Lake scenic area. They are even used as a background image for the paper currency of 1 Yuan RMB in China. 

There is a Hangzhou traditional legend stated that the three pagodas are the three legs of an upturned incense burner, and the body of the burner is underneath the surface with a large snake head (a type of West Lake fish) bent on it. Most natives of China compare the island of Santan Yingyue with that of the small Yingzhou. Yingzhou is a mythical island located on the east sea. Thus, according to the aesthetics and traditional culture, this island contains a superior status. On the Santan Yingyue Island, there are a little small lakes in it and small isles inside these lakes. Old bridges, lovely pavilions and ornamental low banks are scattered all around this island. 

To get to this place, there is no other way but to take a boat. There are a lot of similar looking ticket selling counters around the West Lake. The price is CNY55/pax for a return trip. Please take note, you do not have to come back to the origin place. You can take this opportunity to drop off to other stops to save your leg work. Some famous drop offs are the LeiFeng Pagoda and the Yue Fei Temple. You just have to make sure to be at the right pick up point when you are at the Three Pools Mirroring the moon.

There are some counters provide a larger boat with higher price so not all counters provide these special boats. You have to go to the specific counters. The price quoted above is for the normal boat which you will see at the bottom.

This is the common boat which is electric powered boat. There is no fan or air-condition inside. A boat guide will explain a little bit about West Lake during the ride. The language that is used is only Mandarin. The total journey takes about 15-20 minutes depending on the location. There is no specific time that the boat will depart. Usually the boat will only depart when it is full. Usually the maximum waiting time will be about 30 minutes anything more than that the Chinese passengers will start to disgruntle loudly at the working staffs. 
While looking at the scenery around you, do notice of the beautiful and unique trees too. 

5) If you have never been into a pagoda, Leifeng Pagoda is a good one to start with.

Leifeng Pagoda is a five-storey tower with eight sides, located on Sunset Hill south of the West Lake in Hangzhou, China. The original pagoda was built in 975 AD, during Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, at the order of King Qian Chu (born Qian Hongchu) of Wuyue. It was built to celebrate the birth of Qian Chu's son, born to Queen Yu. The Leifeng Pagoda was an octagonal, five-story structure built of brick and wood and with a base built out of bricks.

During the Ming dynasty, Japanese pirates attacked Hangzhou. Suspecting the pagoda contained weapons, they burned its wooden elements, leaving only the brick skeleton, as can be seen from Ming paintings of the West Lake. Later, due to a superstition that the bricks from the tower could repel illness or prevent miscarriage, many people stole bricks from the tower to grind into powder. On the afternoon of September 25, 1924, the pagoda finally collapsed due to disrepair. What you see in the picture is the leftover of the bricks. The new pagoda is built on top of the ruins. As for whether there was a mausoleum below, this was debated for years until finally radar was used to investigate. On March 11, 2001 the mausoleum was excavated and many artifacts were found, most notably a gold and silver coated hair of the Buddha.

In October 1999, the provincial and municipal governments decided to rebuild Leifeng Pagoda on top of the ruins of the old one. The new pagoda opened on 25 October 2002. It is composed of a 1400 tonne steel structure with 200 tonnes of copper parts. The original base of the pagoda is kept in good condition as well as the artifacts discovered in an underground chamber.
 It contains four sightseeing elevators, and modern amenities such as air conditioners, televisions and speakers. At the entrance of the pagoda there are two autonomous escalators to carry visitors to the base of the pagoda. So you do not have to worry if you think you have to climb all the way to the top. However, there are stairs made for people who wants to try but I hardly see anyone doing that except foreigners like me. LOL. In short, it is a definitely one of the easiest Pagoda to climb...I mean more like ride...
The view from the top will be looking at the West Lake and the parts of the city of Hangzhou. Oh well, the pollution ruined everything.
At night the Pagoda is really beautiful. It is glowing on top on the hill gracefully. You are definitely recommended to visit this place during late evening. It costs CNY40/pax and it opened from 8.00am daily. Usually they will close about 7.00pm or 8.00pm but for the month November 1 to March 15, it is closed at 5.30pm.
The above was the history about this pagoda but people love to hear fictional stories. Leifeng Pagoda is associated with a touching love story between a white snake spirit and a mortal man. Legend has it that a white snake and a blue snake took on the appearance of beautiful ladies after acquiring the supernatural powers over thousands of years. They were named Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing. One day when they were visiting West Lake, it suddenly rained. Fortunately, they met a scholar named Xu Xian on the Broken Bridge. He lent his umbrella to them. Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen fell in love with each other at first sight. Soon, they were married.
However, Evil Monk Fa Hai imprisoned Xu Xian so as to separate this couple. Bai Suzhen tried hard to save her husband by using her power. But all her efforts were in vain, and she was imprisoned under the Leifeng Pagoda. Driven by anger and sadness, Xiao Qing tried her utmost to improve her supernatural power. Finally, she beat the Evil Monk Fa Hai, tore down the tower, and saved Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian. From then on, Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian lived together happily. 
6) If you travelling here with your children, do take them to Yuefei Temple

The Yue Fei Temple or commonly known in Chinese as Yuewang Temple is a temple built in honor of Yue Fei, a general of the Southern Song dynasty who fought against the Jurchen Jin Dynasty during the Jin–Song wars, after the capital of China moved south to Hangzhou. The temple was first constructed during the Song Dynasty in 1221 to commemorate Yue Fei. The site includes Yue Fei's Temple, Loyalty Temple and Yue Fei’s Mausoleum inside. The temple was reconstructed several times in later date. The tombs and the tomb sculptures in the temple all date from the 12th century, and have been meticulously restored.
Yue Fei (1103 - 1141) came from Tangyin in Xiangzhou of today's Henan Province. He was a great general famous for wars against the Jin Dynasty (1115 - 1234) in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). After he joined the army, he and his troops continuously won wars against the Jin. However, after Yue and his army had recovered most of the lost territory, Emperor Gaozong (1107 - 1187) embraced the evil plot of Qin Kuai (1090 - 1155, Prime Minister of the Song Dynasty) and surrendered to the Jin. As a result, he was falsely accused and later secretly killed in jail. A few years later, the wrong was put right when Emperor Xiao Zong (1163 - 1189) came to power. The tomb was built in memory of this great hero. Yue Fei is always considered as a national hero. Even though it is called temple but you do not burn incense here because Yue Fei is not regard as god. You offer fresh yellow flowers which is an offering to honor the dead. 

The common legend of Yue receiving the tattoo from his mother first appeared in Shuo Yue Quanzhuan. In chapter 21 titled "By a pretext Wang Zuo swore brotherhood, by tattoos Lady Yue instructed her son", Yue denounces the pirate chief Yang Yao and passes on a chance to become a general in his army. Yue Fei's mother then tells her son, "I, your mother, saw that you did not accept recruitment of the rebellious traitor, and that you willingly endure poverty and are not tempted by wealth and status ... But I fear that after my death, there may be some unworthy creature who will entice you ... For these reason ... I want to tattoo on your back the four characters 'Utmost', 'Loyalty', 'Serve' and 'Nation' ... The Lady picked up the brush and wrote out on his spine the four characters for 'serving the nation with the utmost loyalty' ... [So] she bit her teeth, and started pricking. Having finished, she painted the characters with ink mixed with vinegar so that the colour would never fade.

Yue Fei had 6 methods to deploy the army. (1) Careful selection, (2) Careful training, (3) Justice in rewards and punishments, (4) Clear orders, (5) Strict discipline and (6) Close fellowship with his men. 
Yue fought a long campaign against the invading Jurchens in an effort to retake northern China. Just when he was threatening to attack and retake Kaifeng, corrupt officials advised Emperor Gaozong to recall Yue to the capital and sue for peace with the Jurchens. Fearing that a defeat at Kaifeng might cause the Jurchens to release Emperor Qinzong, threatening his claim to the throne, Emperor Gaozong followed their advice, sending 12 orders in the form of 12 gold plaques to Yue Fei, recalling him back to the capital. Knowing that a success at Kaifeng could lead to internal strife, Yue submitted to the emperor's orders and returned to the capital, where he was imprisoned and where Qin Hui would eventually arrange for him to be executed on false charges.

For their part in Yue's death, iron statues of Qin Hui, Lady Wang, and two of Qin's subordinates, Moqi Xie and Zhang Jun, were made to kneel before Yue Fei's tomb. For centuries, these statues have been cursed, spat and urinated upon by people. The original castings in bronze were damaged, but later were replaced by images cast in iron, but these were similarly damaged. However now, in modern times, these statues are protected as historical relics.

The General Yue's tomb is right in the center, and to its left is the tomb of his son Yue Yun who had been a competent assistant of his father on the battlefields. Stone horses, tigers, and sheep of the Ming Dynasty (1386 - 1644) decorate both sides of the enclosure. This tomb, which had been destroyed several times, was rebuilt and possesses the features of the Song Dynasty.

The entrance fee is CNY25/pax and 90 minutes to fully explore this place. The operation hour is between 6.00am - 7.30pm. It is recommended to bring your kids here to understand that it is their choice for them to live their life either in glory or in shame even after death. Yue Fei might have died at the prime of his age but his good deed has been past on through generation and bring fame to all his descendants. However for those who framed Yue Fei had lived longer than him but they got the lifetime of humiliation and even their descendants are ashamed and never dare to admit their ancestors.

7) Southern Song Imperial Pedestrian Street is a place to experience the Song Dynasty Era

Hangzhou's Southern Song Imperial Street, a re-creation of what Hangzhou looked like seven centuries ago, is a popular destination for tourists and natives alike. According to historic records, the original street was a private passage for the emperor to conduct a heavenly worship every three years. It had a length of 4185 meters and was paved with over ten thousand stone slabs. The surrounding area was restored and reopened to the public in 2009. Now the street takes on a new look and is a very good pedestrian street but you still can find traces of history from the historical buildings standing on both sides.
Renovated in an architectural style associated with the South Song Dynasty (Hangzhou was the capital), Nan Song Yu Jie is a must-see attraction, with crowds keep coming back to check out its distinctive architecture, shopping opportunities and numerous Chinese and Western restaurants. Here you can not only buy local souvenirs and local products but also appreciate the old style buildings. Along a gently flowing brook, there are specialized shops selling silk, tea and silver. Some chain hotels are built in the ancient style to remind people that they are staying in a historical place. Vendors sit peacefully by their grocery stalls as if they were taking a break instead of doing a business. In the daytime, it’s just an ordinary street. When night falls, the street magicked into a food paradise, teemed with people from all walks of life, food stands, colorful neon signs and old-style flag signs.

8) If Southern Song Imperial Pedestrian Street is your thing, Qinghefang Pedestrian Street shouldn't be missed too

In front of a crystal crafts shop in Hefang Street, a group of tourists are fascinated by the exquisite craftsmanship of the shop owner who has even forgotten to do the business. This is a very common scene on Hefang Street. Now more and more such shop owners can be seen onHefang Street: those who sell bamboo flutes play the flute at the shop; those who sell knitting sweaters knit the sweater; and those who sell writing brushes make them at the shop. The harmonious combination of such traditional "workshop" model of business operation with the tourism has become an attractive scene to tourists.
The buildings in the street were mostly constructed during the Ming and Qing dynasties. After Hangzhou had been chosen as the capital of Southern Song Dynasty, Qinghefang witness many luxurious residence and prosperous restaurants, teahouse and stores. The street collects the business culture, construction culture and folk art culture, famous people, old alleys, ancient houses and renowned store accumulating rich historical and cultural heritage. It is the epitome of Hanghzou. The street is located close to Wu Hill and the West Lake.
Yes, this technically isn’t a market, but what do you really do in a market? You browse and you buy, which is exactly what is done here. The street stretches from Wushan Square all the way down to Zhonghe road. Hang a right and you’ll end up at the Drum Tower Antique market. On the way to check out the old stuff, you can pick up some new. There are the touristy tidbits: swords, masks, paintings, chops, tea, etc. But, you can also find some interesting stuff. Definitely be prepared to bargain, and if you can’t get them down, wait until nightfall then hit the Night Market.

9) The most economical way to circling around the lake is riding a bicycle

With bike-rental stations scattered around Hangzhou city, pedaling is one of the easiest ways to tour Hangzhou. Cycling around West Lake is the best way to do sightseeing easily and casually, also, it can easily avoid the hellishness of increasing car traffic and get a taste of local life at ease. Most of the scenic spots in Hangzhou is not far around West Lake. It is about 16 kilometers around the lake and it takes about 4 hours traveling by bike. It may be a little be tired to cycle for a circle around the lake. Here are some useful tips for you to cycle around the West Lake.

To rent a bike in Hangzhou, you are required to rent a transportation smart card for T or Z first. The Z card is designed for travelers. You'll need an RMB 200 deposit to open a bike rental account, all of which is refundable after the account is closed. And another 100 yuan is to be stored in your account. That means, you are required to store at least 300 yuan at you card as a guarantee deposit, then it will refund the rest of the money after deducting the rent rate. You can get the card and ask for refund in the same day. The place to get a card is at Longxiang Road. For the first hour of bike rental is free; from 1 to 2 hrs, it costs CNY 1 for the hour; from 2 to 3 hrs for the hour, CNY 2; if the rental time is over 3 hrs it charges CNY3/hr. You can own the bike more than 24 hours.
Too difficult? You can rent bicycle from independent vendors like this one. There are a lot of types of bicycle to choose from. However, you need to ride back here and you are not allowed to leave your bicycle some where else. The price is vary which starts from CNY10/hour. The deposit is starts from CNY200. Their closing time is vary and usually about 6.00pm - 7.00pm. Below is me riding on a bicycle around the Hangzhou city. It is quite dangerous when you have to share the same lane with motorcyclists.

If you have a deep pocket, you can just hop on to this tourist car. You can hail to stop them at any point along the road if they still have seats left. The price is CNY50/ride.West Lake tourist cars charge by section. There are four sections to cover and each is priced at RMB 10, which makes a complete tour around West Lake only RMB40 but of course you can also just choose to go by section. Do take note: Once you got off, you need to pay the same price to get on again. 

Around the West Lake, there is a rowing boat. You can get to almost any part of the West Lake and this is the only way to get on the 3 other smaller islands on the lake which is not accessible by painted boat or the leisure boat which will only go to the 3 Pools Mirroring the Moon. The price is RM150/hour and can accommodate up to 8 pax depending on the boat size.  You can see this boat anywhere by the lake and you can ask them to drop off anywhere you like. My kind advice would be please communicate your trip route before you get on it. You do not want the boat ride turn up to be an unhappy experience to your whole trip in China due to miscommunication.

10) There is no subway at Hangzhou International Airport.

Yup, no subway. The only way is by airport bus or taxi. You can checkout the timetable and the destination of the airport bus from the link here

To get to the bus ticket counter, you just have to follow with the signboard written "Long Distance Bus". It is not that hard to find actually. However to get to the airport, there are only a few spots at the city you can take from. My best suggestion is to go to the Hangzhou East Station or Hangzhou South Station which are accessible through the subway. 
One more thing you need to take note is that if you are going to travel by train, don't bother queuing up at their automated ticketing machine or even purchase online. Just get to long queue of line of their manual ticketing counter. The reason is because you need their Chinese Identification card to scan to purchase from the machines and online sites. It is extremely inconvenient for the overseas tourists. So purchase a day earlier to avoid disappointment. Don't ever travel during their national holidays, you are just searching for trouble. You will never get their ticket easily.
Last but not least, Hangzhou is actually an amazing city despite lately most of the populous city in China is polluted by haze. Do not expect the lake to be crystal clear especially the lake is siting in the center of the city. However, fishes are still able to live in the lake but you are not allowed to fish at any point of the lake. 

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