Hangzhou and the West Lake
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Hangzhou and the West Lake

The city of Hangzhou in eastern China is one of the most beautiful locations in that country, together with the West Lake and the surrounding area many visitors are attracted to this city every year.

The city of Hangzhou or Hangchow as it is sometimes called when translated literally is located in eastern China lying some 180 kilometres or 110 miles from Shanghai. Hangzhou is the capital as well as being the largest city of Zhejiang province with a population of 6.4 million.

The city is situated on the delta of the River Yangtze on the silted up bay of Hangzhou. This bay at one time led to Hangzhou’s importance as a port, the silting up of the bay led to the formation of the West Lake and this now is one of the reasons for the city being such a popular tourist destination. Hangzhou has been one of China’s most prosperous city’s for the past 1,000 years.

Hangzhou was first recorded as having a city on its present location over 2,200 years ago. During the Sui Dynasty of the late 6th century the city wall was constructed and the city is listed as being one of the seven ancient capitals of China. The city sits at the southern end of the Grand Canal and is linked in this way to the present capital of Beijing. Construction of the waterway was completed in the year 609.

In the year 1089, the city’s governor Su Shi (Su Dongpo) employed 200,000 workers to construct a causeway across the West Lake. This causeway crosses the lake at a point where it is 2.8 km wide and is one of two causeways across the lake that exist today. Both the city and lake are surrounded by hills that add to the beauty of the location. The Baochu Pagoda on Baoshi Hill guards the northern edge of the lake.

Hangzhou was a capital city for the Wuyue kingdom in the 10th century, it again became a capital during the 12th century under the Southern Song Dynasty and remained so until the late 13th century. Many of China’s philosophers and literary writers have lived and died in Hangzhou. The city wall was not large enough for the ever increasing population and by the 9th century the city had extended outside its defensive construction with an estimated 2 million residents at that time. From 1180 until 1358 Hangzhou was believed to have been the biggest city in the world during those years.

During that time of having a population so densely packed together in wooden buildings fire was a regular problem and the city suffered from six major fires, in 1237 over 30,000 buildings were destroyed in one fire. The explorer Marco Polo visited the city in the late 13th century claiming it to be the finest city he had ever seen.

Modern day Hangzhou relies heavily on tourism for its economy, with its rich abundance of historical landmarks and natural beauty it is able to attract visitors all year although the majority visit during the busy summer months. The West Lake covers an area of 6 sq. km, this is located between the city and a 50 sq. km scenic area of natural beauty. The hilly and wooded terrain is home to historical pagodas and Buddhist temples as well as other cultural sites.

The Qiantang River that runs through Hangzhou has the world’s largest tidal bore with the wave reaching up to 40ft or 12m in height. Hangzhou is also home to the 400 year old Immaculate Conception Cathedral, one of China’s oldest catholic churches. There is also a wetland garden home to being species of birds as well as Hangzhou Zoo. The city also has a number of museums as well as being home to some renowned tea houses. Much of the tea is grown locally and when walking in the countryside outside the city the aroma is a pleasant one to savour.

There is an International Airport close to Hangzhou with flights to and from points in Asia as well as from as far away as Europe. The rail network into Hangzhou is well connected to many other Chinese cities as well as some links using high speed trains. Shanghai 202 km away by rail can be reached in just 45 minutes.

Hangzhou has a number of universities so the population of the city is a good mix of young and old. Hangzhou is said to be one of the top four places to live in China. Suzhou for its beauty and education, Guangzhou for its food, Hangzhou for its beauty, and Liuzhou for the quality of its coffins making it the ideal place to die.

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Comments (1)

I sure do enjoy your first hand educational information. You describe the area and topic so well I can actually get a picture of it in my mind. Never visiting the area of China, you are my eyes for the views. Out of votes so will twitter and buzz to award you as best I am able.