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Travelers Step Into A Real-World Watercolor Painting In Hangzhou, Home To China’s Most Picturesque Landscapes

April 5, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Marco Polo fell in love with it. Poets and painters captured its beauty. Even ancient emperors were awestruck when they visited Hangzhou.
Like San Francisco, Hangzhou is a city by the bay. Like New York, it has world-class museums and cultural activity beating around a heart of green space. Like Venice, its houses are lapped by the gentle currents of a canal.

And like their historical predecessors, modern-day explorers marvel at the rivers, lakes, mountains, and monuments of Hangzhou; a thriving port and economic giant an hour south of Shanghai, but worlds away from anything else in China, that enjoys a reputation as the country’s happiest city.

In an area where man-made creations mesh with the best of nature, Hangzhou’s West Lake remains the canvass on which the city’s beauty is portrayed. As UNESCO explained when designating West Lake a World Heritage Site in 2011, “the key components of West Lake still allow it to inspire people to ‘project feelings onto the landscape.”unnamed (1)

The West Lake – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The West Lake is so photogenic, locals believe a dazzling pearl fell from heaven and transformed itself into the serene body of water, surrounded by rolling hills replete with tea houses, temples, monasteries, and museums. A bevy of bridges, causeways, and willow-shrouded walkways makes visitors forget the nearby city is the fourth largest in China.

By boat or bike is the best way to experience the West Lake, where the array of statues, pagodas, and monuments would take weeks to explore. On the short list of must-see attractions are the Mausoleum of General Yue Fei, Six Harmonies Pagoda, Two Peaks Embracing the Sky, Temple of Soul’s retreat, Peak Flown from Afar, and Solitary Hill.

In the nearby Hangzhou Botanical Gardens, more than 1,000 yellow wintersweets blossomed during the Laba Festival in January.

The Grand Canal

There are two wonders in China, one is the Great Wall, and the other is the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal lives up to its name in more ways than one: the man-made waterway stretches 1200 miles from Hangzhou to Beijing and has stood the test of time for more than 2,000 years. An engineering marvel comparable to the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canal has sightseeing boats that provide perspectives of life in South China river towns. With its array of venerable waterside dwellings and stone bridges, it has the Venetian flavor that Marco Polo favored.

Lingyin Temple

Not far from West Lake is Lingyin Temple also known as Temple of Soul’s Retreat (literal translated name),  is the most celebrated place of interest around West Lake and one of the top ten Buddhist temples of China. Founded in the year 368, it once housed more than 3,000 monks.

With its network of cliffs and grottoes and its pastoral surroundings in the Wulin Mountains, the temple affords visitors both a religious and spiritual experience. The oldest and most significant statue on the site, the 800-year-old Skanda Buddha, guards the rear entrance, while the front is dominated by an enormous sculpture called “the Laughing Buddha.” Inside, in the Grand Hall of the Great Sage, is the largest wooden Buddhist statue in China.

Xixi National Wetland Park

Xixi National Wetland Park  is the only national wetland park in China, located at the west part of Hangzhou. The park is densely crisscrossed with six main watercourses, among which scatter various ponds, lakes and swamps. The wetland has a history and cultural heritage of more than 1,800 years, and is the original site of Chinese South Opera. It is home to traditional Dragon Boat races and vivid life of a water village, including silkworm feeding and silk production.

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