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Hangzhou - "A Paradise City for Tourists"

2018/7/17 13:46:42244 People viewed this article

There is a popular saying in China: "Above there is heaven, below there are Hangzhou and Suzhou." Located around 180 km to the southwest of Shanghai and 160 km to the south of Suzhou, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, is famed as “Heaven on Earth” with its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, mainly at its exquisite West Lake (Xi Hu) area including hills around it, with the placid lake, charming islands, graceful causeways, picturesque gardens, lavish temples, beautiful hills, verdant tea plantation valleys and lakeside pavilions, bridges, classical houses and pagodas. Hangzhou is also well known for its silk and Longjin Tea (Dragon Well Tea) which is commonly considered as the best tea in China. A trip to Hangzhou can be easily combined with a visit to a tea plantation in the hills near the West Lake.

 

The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. For it has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. The West Lake has influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries and bears an exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of improving landscapes to create a series of vistas reflecting an idealised fusion between humans and nature.

 

Hangzhou has enjoyed a history of over 2,200 years since the Qiantang county was established in Qin Dynasty. It is one of the most important cradles of Chinese civilization. As early as over 4,700 years ago, there were human beings multiplying and living in Hangzhou area, creating Liangzhu Culture, one of the most important representative Neolithic Age Civilizations in China, known as the dawn of civilization. Around 4100 years ago, the Great Yu, general leader of tribal union throughout China, once disembarked here, hence the name of this area, Yu Hang, means Yu’s Boat. Hang (杭) means wooden boat in ancient Chinese. 

 

The city rose to fame after the Grand Canal was completed. In AD 610, the Jiangnan Canal (South Yangtze River Canal) was connected to the North Canal. It forms the famous Grand Canal, the longest and oldest canal in the world. Thus, five major rivers of China (the Hai, Yellow, Huai, Yangtze, and Qiantang) and some major cities such as Beijing, Luoyang (then capital), Yangzhou, Suzhou and Hangzhou were all connected, this facilitated transportation to and from Hangzhou, and thus boosted the regional economy. Tourism in Hangzhou also started to boom. At about the same time, this place was renamed Hangzhou (Zhou is an administrative division). So Hangzhou literally means a place which could be accessible only by boat.

 

Hangzhou began to prosper and flourish in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was the capital of the Wuyue States in the 10th Century during the Five Dynasties Period, (now there are still many cultural sites relating to this period, such as the Temple for the King of Wuyue State, Six Harmonies Pagoda on the north bank of Qiantang River, Baoshu Pagoda and Leifeng Pagoda stand on the north and south lakeside hill respectively), and had its political heyday in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), when it served as the capital of China for 138 years (1138-1276 AD). So Hangzhou is one of the seven ancient capitals in China, and the population of Hangzhou reached 1.1 million during that period. But now only some Remains of the Southern Song Imperial City exist. 

 

Hangzhou witnessed a commercial boom in the Ming Dynasties (1368-1911), which is continuing at present. 

 

Ten Scenes of West Lake 

Since the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 AD), ten poetically named scenic places have been identified as embodying idealized classic landscapes on the West Lake - that manifest the perfect fusion between man and nature and as the best-known sights, each remembered by a four-character epithet. Collectively, they are known as the "Ten Scenes of West Lake" (西湖十景 in Chinese). Each is marked by a stele with an epithet written in the calligraphy of the Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799 AD). They are:

 

Spring Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (苏堤春晓) 

Lotus Stirred by Breeze from Winery Yard in Summer (曲院风荷)

Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月) 

Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge in Winter (断桥残雪)

Sunset Glow at Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰夕照) 

Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (双峰插云) 

 Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪闻莺) 

Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港观鱼)

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月) 

Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚钟)

 

What to see in Hangzhou 

 

West Lake

Surrounded by green hills on three sides and lies to the west of the city, the world-famous West Lake is a symbol of Hangzhou City. It is famous for its picturesque landscape and various historical sites and selected as one of the "12 superb sunset spots around the world" by CNN.

 

Measuring 3.2 km in length, 2.8 km in width, and 2.3 m in average depth with the deepest being 5 meters, the total area of the lake spreads is 6.78 square kilometers and is divided into five sections by three causeways (Bai Causeway, Su Causeway and Yanggong Causeway). There are 3 artificial islands (Ruangong Islet, Mid-Lake Pavilion, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon) and one natural island (Solitary Hill) in the lake. The Solitary Hill in the north of the lake can be reached along Bai Causeway. 

 

The water in the lake is not dead water. It is flowing. There are some streams into the lake from hills. And on another side of the hills to the south of the lake is the Qiantang River. In 1986, a pipe was put under the hills between the river and lake. From then on, 400 thousand cubic meters of fresh water flows into the river every day. It is said every 33 days the whole body of water in the West Lake will have a change. 

 

In order to make the West Lake area more beautiful, its islands, causeways and the lower slopes of its hills have been 'improved' by the addition of numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees which merge with famed landscape. The main artificial elements of the lake, two causeways and three artificial islands, were created from repeated dredgings between the 9th and 12th centuries. West Lake is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape that display with great clarity the ideals of Chinese landscape aesthetics, as expounded by writers and scholars in Tang and Song Dynasties. The landscape of West Lake had a profound impact on the design of gardens not only in China but further afield, where lakes and causeways imitated the harmony and beauty of West Lake. 

 

Walking from east to west on the Bai Causeway, tourists can visit “Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge”, “Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake”, Solitary Hill with Zhongshan Park, Xiling Seal-Engravers’ Society and Louwailou Restaurant. 

 

Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge

On the east end of Bai Causeway is the Broken Bridge, but it is not broken. In winter, when it snows, the scene is especially beautiful. If the next day is a sunny day, the snow on the brideg will melt first. Looked from the top of the hill, the bridge seems to be broken. Another explanation is a folk love story associated with the Broken Bridge. A White Snake, served the people with the medical knowledge she had acquiryed. She met a young scholar named Xu Xian for the first time at the Broken Bridge. They fell in love and married. Unfortunately this happy couple was separated by an evil monk with magical powers named Fa Hai and the White Snake Lady was imprisoned under Leifeng Pagoda on the southern lakeside. That is the reason why the bridge is called the Broken Bridge. 

 

Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake is a small but nice lakeside garden with delicate pavilions and halls, little zigzag bridges, odd-shaped rockery and rich variety of plants. An open-air terrace jutting into the lake almost at the same level as the lake surface is said to be the perfect place of appreciating the lake and moon and enjoying the cool breeze on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. 

 

Solitary Hill is a natural island in the lake with the remains of former Emperor’s Palace and garden in it.

 

Found in 1904, Xiling Seal-Engravers’ Society in a charming classical garden with springs, pavilions, bamboo groves and old trees on the western foot of the Solitary Hill is a renowned academic society specializing in the study of seal-engraving, epigraphy, painting and calligraphy.

 

Walking from the west end of Bai Causeway to the north end of Su Causeway on the north bank of the lake, tourists can meet Mucai Pavilion, a courtyard named Lotus Stirred by Breeze from Winery Yard (no winery now, but it is another best place to enjoy the West Lake and it is also the place for the Impressive West Lake Show.), Walking on the Su Causeway for a while, you can find the entrance to a Park also named "Lotus Stirred by Breeze from Winery Yard".

 

Taking a ferry boat, tourists can step on the biggest artificial island in the lake: Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon. It was built in 1607, Ming dynasty, with silt from the lake, which created lakes within a lake and islands within an island. The island covers an area of 7 hectares, of which 60% is water surface. In Chinese gardening, water is essential and considered as the soul. A garden without water is just like a man without a soul.

 

At the southern side of the island, there are three stone miniature pagodas in the lake. It is said that the three pagodas were built in 1621, Ming dynasty. Originally it is a sign which forbad planting lotus because the overgrown lotus would make the lake muddy. Now it is the best place to enjoy the moon on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The stone pagodas are 2 m high and each has 5 small round holes. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the full moon is shining high above in the sky, people would light candles in the pagodas and seal the holes with thin paper. Those holes become mini-moons and they have beautiful reflections on the water. Plus the moon inside our mind, people can enjoy 33 moons on that special full-moon night.

 

Soul Retreat Temple & Peak Flying from Afar

Located around 4 km to the west of the West Lake, the Zen sect Soul Retreat Temple was firstly founded in 328 AD by the Indian Monk Huili, because he found the valley between the two peaks was so beautiful and quiet that he thought it was a retreat of supernatural being. It is one of the oldest, largest and famous Buddhist temples in China, and contains numerous pagodas and Buddhist grottoes, religious rock carving on 209m high the Peak Flying from Afar in the front of the Temple (The Buddhist stone sculptures here are the oldest and best in southern China). Monk Huili found the hill looked exactly like the Lingjiu Hill in India. So the India monk said,”There were two monkeys, one white and one black, on the lingjiu Hill in  India. There must be two monkeys here since lingjiu Hill flew all the way here.” Then monk Huili exclaimed and two monkeys came out from the caves, one white, and the other black. Seeing that, people believed what monk Huili said and began to call the hill Peak Flying from Afar. 

 

Monk Huili buried under a pagoda in the front of the hill. Above the entrance of the big cave are Three Western Sages in Buddhism made over 1000 years ago, Amitabha in the middle, Goddess of Mercy in the left and Mahasthamaprapta in the right. 

 

The most famous and also the largest carving on the hill is the Song dynasty sculpture of Buddha Maitreya with big beer belly and smiling fact. 9.9 m wide and 3.6 m high, the sculpture of the Buddha Maitreya is vivid in expression and perfect in craftsmanship. 

 

The sitting Sakyamuni statue in the temple is as high as 24.8 m, boasts the biggest sitting Buddha statue made in camphorwood in China. Destroyed and rebuilt no less than 16th times, now most of the buildings in the temple were built in 1956. 

 

Leifeng Pagoda was firstly constructed in 975 at the order of Qian Hongchu, the King of Wuyue State to celebrate the birth of a son by one of his favorite concubines - Huangfei.  

 

The pagoda became a household name in China thanks to the popular folk tale, "The Legend of the White Snake", a touching love story about a girl who changed from a snake and a young man. The story has been repeatedly adapted for traditional operas and also for modern movies and TV series.  

 

In the story, the couple are separated by an evil old monk with magical powers, who had the snake girl imprisoned under the Leifeng Pagoda for years. She is finally rescued by her son who caused the collapse of the pagoda. 

 

In real life, the pagoda also had a sad history. It suffered a most severe disaster during the Ming Dynasty. Japanese invaders set fire to the pagoda and burned the wooden structrure to ashes, leaving only a brick skeleton. In August 1924 the foot of the pagoda was dug hollow and other parts of the pagoda were so severely damaged that the ancient pagoda suddenly collapsed.

 

In October 1999, the 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 tone steel structure with 200 tone of copper parts. 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 and tourists can also take lift in the pagoda to reach the top of it for the nice panoramic view of the West Lake. 

 

The original base of the pagoda is kept in good condition as well as the artifacts discovered in an underground chamber. 

 

Hupao Park (Tiger Pawing Spring

 A spring as well as a scenic and historic destination, originally it was a temple and now there are still some halls with Buddha statues. The area is inside mountains to the south of West Lake, includes wooded pathways, streams, bamboo groves, tea houses, historic structures, as well as the spring itself and other sights. Visitors can reach it via a path along stream. The spring is regarded as among the finest in China. The water is pure and clean all year round, with very low content of mineralized ingredients and high surface tension. Even a Chinese nickel coin can easily float on it. If dropping some coins into a bowl of the spring water, the water rises above the bowl edge, but it does not overflow. The water is famous for its natural sweetness and its fine tea-brewing quality, such as the local specialty, Longjing Tea (Dragon Well Tea). Longjing Tea and Hupao Water is widely known as the best pair in China.

 

The site of teahouse was once a Buddhist temple. Here is also the burial place of the famous monk Jigong (1148—1209, legendary the incarnation of the Subduing Dragon Arhat and the 50th founder of Zen Sect), and monk Hongyi (secular name Li Shutong, 1880 -1942), a master of art, studied in Japan when he was young, and proficient in music, drama, painting, calligraphy, seal-engraving and literature. He once acted in the opera Camellia Lady. In 1918, he decided to investigate the source of the soul and the fundamental of the universe, so converted to Buddhism. He achieved a lot by practicing Buddhist doctrines. After his death in 1942, he was honored as the 11th founder of the Lu Sect (the School of Vinaya) of Buddhism.

 

Longjing Tea Village & 9 Streams and 18 Gullies

Hangzhou is one of the birthplaces of Chinese green tea. The tea grows here is named Xihu Longjing Tea - West Lake Dragon Well Tea. This Tea is listed among the top 10 types of green tea in China. But where exactly is this tea grown? The sought-after tea is actually grown in villages in the deep mountains where are a little far from the lake. According to one government report, the area contains 95,500 mu (or 63 sq. km) of land with crops grown on it, a portion of that being tea. 

 

The Longjing or "Dragon Well" refers to an actual well to the west of West Lake near a small village called Longjing. This picturesque village runs on an economy consisting of tourism and tea. You can walk on the streets in Longjing and smell the aroma of freshly-picked tea leaves being pan-fired, sometimes right on the sidewalk. You can get into the village through the charming 9 Streams and 18 Gullies.

 

Longjing Tea Village is everything you'd hope to find in search of an authentic Chinese tea drinking experience.

 

In addition to striking the gold of Longjing green tea production, there is also a fantastic hike through the tea plantations themselves. Know as 9 Streams and 18 Gullies - a picturesque valley for the Dragon Well Tea plantation, this walk not only brings you through the enchanted land of tea - it leads you scampering through a stream, 9 times over. And if you head out on a warm summer day, you may not want to leave.

 

Just 15 minutes' walk to the east of the West Lake, the area of Qinghefang Old Street and the nearby Zhongshan Road probably is only one well-protected old Hangzhou street area. It used to be the most prosperous street of Hangzhou in ancient times. You can taste local food in the restaurants, and buy souvenirs and Longjing tea. There is a famous Chinese Herb Medicine Pharmacy called Huqingyu Chinese Medicine Hall Pharmacy on Qinghefang Street and a Chinese Medicine Museum in it. You can also find the Drum Bell Tower (for time reporting in ancient time) of Old Hangzhou on the Zhongshan Road.

 

What is the best time to visit Hangzhou?

The best times to visit Hangzhou are in Spring (March–May) and Fall (September–November). In Spring, West Lake is quite beautiful with peach blossoms and weeping willow catkins. It is very hot and crowed in summer school holiday period and cold in winter. But in summer, the lotuses blossom in West Lake is blooming, making West Lake more attractive. Winter's top benefit is that it's quietest in Hangzhou. Plum blossoms are in their most beautiful season. But winter in Hangzhou is very cold. The temperature can drop below zero.

 

You’d better avoid weekends and Chinese public holidays, such as Chinese New Year Holiday (normally in Jan and Feb, but the exact day is according to Chinese lunar calendar, so varies from year to year), Labor Day (May 1 to 3) and National Day Holiday (October 1 to 7), when Hangzhou is always crowded with Chinese tourists.

 

How to get to Hangzhou? 

It is only around 180 km / around 1 hour between Shanghai to Hangzhou By bullet train, and there are many bullet trains, say every 10 or 15 minutes one train. 

 

There are two Railway Stations in Hangzhou:

Hangzhou Railway Station, only 2 km to the east of the West Lake, and Hangzhou East Railway Station, 8 km to the east of the West Lake. We suggest tourists to take the train to and leave Hangzhou Railway Station, for it is near the West Lake and can save time and taxi money. But only few bullet trains stop at the Hangzhou Railway Station. 

 

Tourists can also take car from Shanghai to Suzhou. Normally it would take around 3 hours one way. 

 

Major tourist cities in China, such as Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, and Guangzhou are about 2 hours away by air to Hangzhou.

 

Hangzhou (Xiaoshan) Airport is about 30 kilometers southeast of Hangzhou city, at the south side of Qingtang River. It takes about 50 minutes from the airport to city center by taxi. 

 

Where to Stay in Hangzhou?

I suggest tourists can stay at the 4-Star Zhejiang Media Hotel which is only around 200 m to the east of the West Lake. 

 

Standing on Hubin Road business street, the Zhejiang Media Hotel is within easy reach of several shopping malls as well as West Lake, Hangzhou's premier tourist attraction renowned for its beautiful scenery. The Western and Chinese style buffet breakfast at this hotel is quite good.

 

Famous Local Dishes in Hangzhou

West Lake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce(西湖醋鱼)

 Shrimp Meat Fried with Dragon Well Tea (龙井虾仁)

Dongpo's Pork (Pork braised in brown soy sauce)(东坡肉)

 

Suggested Hangzhou Tour Itinerary

1) One Day HangzhouTour from Shanghai 

Drive from Shanghai to Hangzhou (180 km/3 hours), 

Visit: Peak Flying from Afar & Soul Retreat Temple (The best Buddhist sculptures on the graceful hill in the southern China, and one of the largest and most famous temples in China), Walking on the Bai Causeway, passing Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge, Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake (the best place to view the West Lake), and Solitary Hill, Xiling Seal-Engravers’ Society (a very charming classical garden with springs, pavilions, bamboo groves and old trees), Ferry Boat to the biggest island Three Pools Mirroring the Moon in the lake (feeling the glamour of the West Lake).  

 

As the day draws to an end, sit back and enjoy a comfortable drive back to Shanghai. 

 

This One Day Tour itinerary offers the epitome of Hangzhou with some of the must-see attractions: the UNESCO World Heritage, the West Lake and its surrounding area, visit the enchanting valley with one of the most famous temples in China and the pretty hill with many Buddhist sculptures, walking on the Bai Causeway into the lake, boating on the lake and strolling at the biggest and most picturesque island in the lake. 

 

2) Two Days Hangzhou Tour from Shanghai 

Day 1  Drive from Shanghai to Hangzhou (180 km/3 hours),

Visit: Peak Flying from Afar & Soul Retreat Temple (The best Buddhist sculptures on the graceful hill in the southern China, and one of the largest and most famous temples in China), Walking on the Bai Causeway, passing Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge, Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake (the best place to view the West Lake), and Solitary Hill, Xiling Seal-Engravers’ Society (a very charming classical garden with springs, pavilions, bamboo groves and old trees), Ferry Boat to the biggest island Three Pools Mirroring the Moon in the lake (feeling the glamour of the West Lake). 

 

Day 2  Tour in Hangzhou, Drive back to Shanghai

Leifeng Pagoda (the best place to enjoy a panoramic view of the West Lake), Qinghefang Old Street and the nearby Zhongshan Road (the well-protected old Hangzhou street area) and Huqingyu Chinese Medicine Hall (one of the most famous Chinese medicine stores in China), Hupao Park (Tiger Pawing Spring, one of the best springs in China), Longjing Tea Village + 9 Streams and 18 Gullies (the stunning tea plantation valley in the mountains not far from the West Lake).

 

 As the day draws to an end, sit back and enjoy a comfortable drive back to Shanghai. 

 

This Two Days Tour itinerary offers the epitome of Hangzhou with some of the must-see attractions: the UNESCO World Heritage, the West Lake and its surrounding area, visit the enchanting valley with one of the most famous temples in China and the pretty hill with many Buddhist sculptures, walking on the Bai Causeway into the lake, boating on the lake and strolling at the biggest and most picturesque island in the lake.

 

Plus the above items, tourists will also get up by elevator to the top of Leifeng Pagoda, the best place to enjoy the panoramic view of the West Lake, visit the well-protected old Hangzhou corner, stunning tea plantation valley with limpid streams, and taste the Longjing Tea with Hupao Water - the best green tea brewed in the best spring water in China.