The West Lake (西湖, Xi Hu) in Hangzhou is an iconic landmark with beautiful gardens, temples and sceneries. A World Unesco Heritage Site dubbed as “heaven on earth” in a popular Chinese saying. It has awed many poets for centuries and it is also an exemplary where garden architects seek their inspirations from. To truly appreciate the beauty of West Lake, you will have to be around it for a full year because the lake has different faces during the four seasons and during different times of the day. The best of them has been selected to represent the West Lake, collectively known as The Ten Scenes of West lake (西湖十景), including
1. Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
The Su Causeway is the most dazzling in spring when everything comes back to life after a long winter – which we didn’t get to see. We did experience a different Su Causeway – mysterious and misty, making the Su Causeway look as if it’s never ending. The causeway is 3.3 km where you can leisurely stroll along or hop on the park’s buggies for RMB 10 from one attraction to the next within the West Lake Park.
2. Lotus in the Breeze in Winding Courtyard (曲院風荷)
Lotus flowers blossom during July and August. Don’t get disappointed if you are not there during the season because at off peak seasons, the attraction is quieter, making it a perfect place to linger with the winding bridges in lush greens away from the hustle and bustle. You can combine the visit with Yue Fei Temple and Guo’s Garden that are in the vicinity.
3. Moon Over the Peaceful Lake (平湖秋月)
Physically, there is a spot for this attraction. But really the moon can be viewed from anywhere on the lake as long as you can see the moon. Even if you don’t see the moon, the West Lake is stunning at night with its music fountains, Impression West Lake and a stunning view of Beishan Road from Bai Causeway.
4. Remnant Snow on Broken Bridge (斷橋殘雪)
The bridge isn’t literally broken but it refers to during winter, the snow falls and cover parts of the bridge, making it look “broken”. It is also where the love story between the scholar Xu Xian and Lady White Snake began 1000 years ago. You can find out more about the love story in Leifeng Pagoda.
5. Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
The original pagoda built more than 1000 years ago had already collapsed but the base of the pagoda remains and the current pagoda is a rebuilt on top of the remnants. The pagoda offers panoramic views of the West Lake, presents the story of Xu Xian and Lady White Snake in wooden sculptures and you can even buy home a piece of certified brick used in the original pagoda.
6. Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
The two peaks are known as the Northern Peak and Southern Peak near to the Hangzhou Botanical Garden. Hiking routes are available to the peaks.
7. Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
The sounds chirped by the orioles were truly astounding – before I realized that there were vendors selling whistles that make the sounds of orioles. So I don’t know how much is from the real orioles or from the whistle-orioles. However, I found the park amusing in its own ways with the willows billowing in the breeze. King Qian’s Memorial is just nearby for an easy combined visit.
8. Fish Viewing at Flower Port (花港觀魚)
A very popular attraction where you might have to squeeze your way through to see the energetic golden carps. Quite amazing to see so many red carps all wiggling together!
9. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
You might feel familiar when you see these pagodas on the lake as they are printed on the back of the RMB 1 note. At night, when lamps are placed within the pagodas, the light emits from the 5 holes of the pagodas, reflecting into the lake looking like little moons. A joyful boat road will take you to this attraction.
During 1985, ten more spots around the West Lake have been selected and are known as the “Ten New Scenes of West Lake” (新西湖十景). These spots are not right on the West Lake but are 15 – 30 minutes away from the West Lake by cab.
1. Running Tiger Spring (Hupao Spring) 虎跑梦泉
Hupao Spring is thought to be dug out by tigers and hence the name. The spring water is thought to be one of the top springs in China and you can bring your own containers too to bring home some spring water.
2. Longjing (Dragon Well) Tea Village 龍井問茶
Hangzhou is famous for the renowned Longjing Tea and it’s worth a try if you are tea lover. It is thought that the Longjing tea leaves, together with the spring water from Hupao Spring make a superb pair. If you are travelling by cab, do get the driver to bring you to the tea plantation instead of a more commercialized area with mostly vendors selling pricey tea.
3. Nine Creeks by Misty Trees (九溪烟树)
The Nine Creeks are about a 1 hour walk from Longjing Tea Village. Probably not the easiest to get to if you are a tourist like me. But sometimes you get to appreciate the little things when you walk – the tea plantations along the way, the refreshing forest and the tea houses scattered along the way.
4. Yellow Dragon Cave (黄龍吐翠)
The “cave” is located inside a park which embraces the theme of “fate”. From Old Man Under the Moon (Chinese version of Love God) to the biggest love lock in the country, the park is a charming place to walk around.
5. The City God (Chenghuan) Pavilion – Heavenly Wind Over Wushan Hill (吴山天風)
An easy 15 minutes hike will take you up to the Wushan Hill where the City God Pavilion is. An attraction less visited by tourists but it has some nice sculptures and the Hangzhou Case Pavilion From World Expo Shanghai 2010 is here as well. Do take a walk to Hefang Street nearby to experience old Hangzhou with traditional arts and crafts that may be slowly disappearing.
6. Precious Stone Hill in Rosy Clouds (寶石流霞)
The “Precious Stone Hill” refers to Baochu Hill Where the Baochu Pagoda (保俶塔) is located. The hill has semi-precious stones inlaid within, making the hill glimmer during dusk among the “rosy clouds”. Hiking routes are available up the Baochu Hill.
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to visit all the Ten New Scenes of West Lake and the remainder includes:
8. Sweet Osmanthus Rain at Manjuelong Village (滿隴桂雨) – A park with Osmanthus flowers that’s very popular during the blooming season from early September to early november.
9. Ruan’s Mound Encircled by Greenness 阮墩环碧 – a little island that’s on the West Lake.
10. Clouds Scurrying over Jade Emperor Hill (玉皇飛雲) – where Jade Emperor – the boss of all gods in Taoism – is enshrined.