City of Joy
Updated: 2011-03-18 10:29
By Yan Yiqi (China Daily European Weekly)
West Lake is home to some of Hangzhou's most famous scenic places.
Welcome to the 'world of smiles' where life meanders slowly
Consider China as a house. If Beijing is the decorated living room, where the family politely greets guests, then Hangzhou is the backyard garden where a family can really show off their home's true beauty and where visitors can sit back and relax.
Heavenly Hangzhou's slow life tempo and beautiful natural surroundings for many centuries has made it the tourist toast of the nation.
In a new BBC documentary, Hangzhou was dubbed the "world of smiles, and the city of happiness".
Hangzhou is the capital city of East China's Zheijiang province, only 180 km southwest from Shanghai. As a core city of the Yangtze River Delta, Hangzhou has been one of the most prosperous cities in China for more than 1,000 years.
Marco Polo, the famous Italian traveler and merchant of the 13th century, described Hangzhou as "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world".
Once the capital of Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), Hangzhou is now a modern and vibrant leisure center of China.
Luxury hotels, along with exquisite restaurants and exciting nightclubs can all be accessed in this city.
Hangzhou also has a perfect combination of natural beauty and cultural relics.
The famous West Lake and the surrounding mountains are located near downtown of Hangzhou, very conveniently reached.
Although Hangzhou has been through many phases of urbanization, the historical and cultural heritage remain. The ancient pagodas, temples and churches provide wonderful destinations for visitors who favor a journey of history discovery.
The following are five must-see spots.
1. West Lake
The West Lake is definitely a place people can never miss when visiting Hangzhou. The lake itself covers 6 sq km, and includes some of Hangzhou's most famous scenic places.
There are "10 scenes of West Lake" and "10 new scenes", but it is not necessary to make a checklist and walk back and forth to look for these scenic spots.
Just walk casually along the Nanshan and Beishan roads and the causeways, take a ferry on the boat to the islands on the lake, or simply sit in a lakeside teahouse and enjoy the picturesque views and the longjing (dragon well) tea.
The lake is situated in the center of the city, with convenient public traffic access. The Hangzhou government also offers free public bikes for tourists to travel around the lake. The parks around the lake are all free to visit.
2. Lingyin Temple
The word "Lingyin" means the "retreat of souls" in Chinese. The temple, about 2 km west of the West Lake, is exactly where people can find relaxation from top to toe.
Beside the road that leads to the temple, grand trees are like big umbrellas blocking the severe sunshine in summer.
Hidden between the mountains, the temple is believed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Hangzhou, and is now receiving more than 3 million people a year.
It is all right for non-Buddhists to visit the temple, because just listening to the rustling of tree leaves and the twittering of birds can make people forget the troubles of a busy city life.
3. Xixi Wetland
The 11.5 sq km wetland is the first of its kind in China, located 5 km west of the West Lake. The characteristics of this park can be concluded as "serene, wild, plain and elegant".
Ecology is the key word of Xixi Wetland. Endangered plants, birds, fish and frog species are well protected in it.
It is also representative of the culture of East China. Each building alongside the watercourse represents one typical cultural practice of this area. Visitors can sit inside the East China-styled houses listening to the Zhejiang province's famous Yueju Opera.
4. Hefang Street
Travelers to Hangzhou will never be worried about souvenirs, and Hefang Street is a place where they can both take in an experience of the time when Hangzhou was the capital of China, and also satisfy their shopping frenzies.
The 1.8 km-long pedestrian street is decorated in ancient styles. The emperors' palace was once built beside it, making it the economic and political center of Hangzhou.
Most of the shops on the street have a history of more than 100 years. People can buy the most typical Hangzhou products from them.
Do not be surprised if you see a person wearing an ancient costume walking on the Hefang Street. It is a demonstration of how people in the past lived and visitors can also try on these clothes themselves and take pictures to remember the special moments.
5. Thousand Islands Lake
The lake lies in Hangzhou's Chun'an county, about 150 km west of downtown Hangzhou. It is an artificial lake formed in 1959 as a result of the construction of Xin'an River Power Station. As its name suggests, the lake contains 1,078 islands, each having its own specialty.
The fact that the lake is artificial does not affect the natural beauty of its sceneries.
About 80 percent of the lake is covered with forests, so it is also considered as a natural oxygen bar. Most of the islands can be visited and the strange formed caves, fascinating shaped stones have amazed millions of tourists around the world.
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