WEST LAKE: Marco Polo was here!

A Map of the Lake

A Map of the Lake

The West Lake is famed throughout China as being beautiful. So beautiful that when Marco Polo visited China he said it was the most beautiful lake he had ever seen.

According to the tour guides for China, Hangzhou‘s West Lake Scenic Area, in the southwest of the city, covers 60 square kilometers (23 square miles), of which the West Lake itself occupies 5.6 square kilometers (2.2 square miles). It was also originally known as the Upper Lake which meant it was a lake in heaven. It is a man-made lake from around the 11th century and was part of an Imperial park also. In ancient times, this place had been a shallow sea gulf before it became a residual lake. “A legend says that once a dragon and a Phoenix argued about a pearl, causing it finally to fell on earth where it transformed into the west lake. “However, its real origins date back to the time of Tang-dynasty, where it was initially the bay of the Quian Tang river, which then was separated from the river by human hand and dug out.

It was also originally the centre of the city, but now the Quian Tang River is the central feature as the south bank is being developed in similar fashion to Shanghai’s Pudong District. That is with high rise offices and fancy flats….

“West Lake is a place of tranquillity where urbanity becomes a silhouette on the northeast horizon and mountains near and far surround it on the other three sides. The occasional pagoda and Chinese-style arched bridge add atmosphere to the tree-lined walkways, verdant islands and hills.” There are also plenty of boat men who will, rather like the gondola owners of Venice, take the tourist out for a very expensive (and romantic) ride on the lake…

We arrived at dusk after the visit to Lingyin Temple and it was one of the most romantic lakesides I’ve seen for sure. Indeed one of an Emperor’s concubines – a favourite apparently and very well known for her songs and poems, wrote many about the lake. Indeed when she died she was buried on the lake shore. Her grave was ripped up during the Cultural Revolution but a small shrine has been rebuilt to her now.

The Su Causeway tops the list of the ten best known sights in Hangzhou. The causeway was built during the Northern Song Dynasty by Su Dongpo (1037-1101), a great scholar and famous poet, and was named after him. Stretching 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles), it includes six bridges. We walked this causeway, which does not allow vehicles after a certain point as the night fell and it was lovely indeed.

views at dusk

views at dusk


The famous lotus plants of the lake

The famous lotus plants of the lake


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