West Lake (Chinese: 西湖; pinyin: Xī Hú; Wu: Si-wu) is a
freshwater lake in Hangzhou, China. It is divided into five sections
by three causeways. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and
artificial islands within the lake.
Map of the
West Lake in Hangzhou, China
West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history
for its natural beauty and historic relics, and it has also been among
the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden
designers. It was made a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site in 2011,
described as having "influenced garden design in the rest of
Japan and Korea over the centuries" and reflecting "an
idealized fusion between humans and nature".
1.1 Qin dynasty
1.2 Sui dynasty
1.3 Tang dynasty
1.4 Five Dynasties
1.5 Song dynasty(The Northern Song and The Southern Song)
1.6 Yuan dynasty
1.7 Ming dynasty
1.8 Qing Dynasty
1.9 Republican era to the end of the 20th century
1.10 Literary works
West Lake Southern Side Renovation Project
6 Ten Scenes of West Lake
8 Notes and references
9 See also
10 External links
The earliest recorded name for
West Lake was the "Wu Forest River"
(武林水, Wǔlín Shuǐ). The Book of Han's "Geography Column" says,
"Qiantang, affiliated to the western governor general. Wu Forest
Mountain (Wǔlínshān) is the origin of the Wu Forest River. Running
east into the sea, it covers 830 li" (roughly, 350 km or
220 mi). Other former names include the "Qian River", "Qiantang
Lake", "Mingsheng Lake", "Jinniu Lake", "Shihan Lake", "Shang Lake",
"Lianyan Lake", "Fangsheng Pond", "Xizi Lake", "Gaoshi Lake", "Xiling
Lake", "Meiren Lake", "Xianzhe Lake", and "Mingyue Lake". But only two
names were widely accepted in history and recorded in historical
documents. One is "Qiantang Lake", due to the fact that
called "Qiantang" in ancient times. The other name is "West Lake", due
to the lake being west of the city. The name "West Lake" first
appeared in two poems of Bai Juyi, "Bestowed on guests as returning
West Lake in the evening and looking back to Gushan Temple"
(西湖晚歸回望孤山寺贈諸客) and "On the returning boat to
Hangzhou" (杭州回舫). Since the Northern Song dynasty, most poems
and articles of scholars used the name "West Lake", while the name
"Qiantang Lake" was gradually deprecated. "The request of dredging
West Lake" written by
Su Shi was the first time that "West Lake"
appeared in an official document.
Over 2,000 years ago,
West Lake was still a part of the Qiantang
River. Due to soil sedimentation, the feet of Wu Mountain and Baoshi
Mountains, the surrounding mountains on the northern and southern
sides of the lake, gradually stretched to form shoal heads. Later,
these sand spits slowly merged into a bank, to which a lagoon emerged
to the west; this was the old
West Lake of the Qin and Han dynasties.
West Lake Dream Searching" (西湖夢尋), written by Zhang Dai,
relates the story that
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang visited the area and moored his
boat to a stone later developed into the Big Stone Buddhist Temple.
The stone was located on Baoshi Mountain, north of the West Lake, and
can still be seen.
Sui dynasty is noted for the great engineering works
which it accomplished during its brief existence. After AD 610, the
Jiangnan Canal was opened and connected to the North Canal. Thus, five
major rivers of
China (the Hai, Yellow, Huai, Yangtze, and Qiantang)
were all were connected: this facilitated transportation to and from
Hangzhou and thus boosted the regional economy. Tourism in Hangzhou
also started to boom.
In the Tang dynasty,
West Lake had an area of roughly 10.8 square
kilometers. The western and southern parts of the lake all extended to
the foot of West Hill. The northeastern part stretched to Wulin Gate
area. Pilgrims could take the boat to the hill-foot and walk up to the
hill to worship. Due to the ongoing aggradation of the lake, together
with the virtual lack of any hydraulic projects, in those days, the
lake would flood after heavy rains and dry up during long droughts.
West Lake at night
In September 781, Li Mi (李泌) was appointed the governor of
Hangzhou. In order to supply fresh water, he creatively induced the
water into the city. He ordered six wells dug in populous areas like
Qiantang Gate and Yongjin Gate, and set up a "shadow conduit"
(underground clay and bamboo pipes) to introduce lake water into the
city. The six wells have long vanished today. The only existing relic
from that time is the Xiangguo Well, located west of Jinting Bridge on
Jiefang Road. The other five wells were Xi Well (to the west of
Xiangguo Well), Fang Well (or Four-eyed Well), Jinniu Well (northwest
of Xi Well), Baigui Well (west of Longxiang Bridge), and Xiaofang Well
(or Six-eyed Well, inside Qiantang Gate, now Xiaoche Bridge area).
In the middle of the Zhenyuan era (785-804) in the Tang dynasty, poet
and government official
Bai Juyi was appointed the governor of
Hangzhou. Already an accomplished and famous poet, his deeds at
Hangzhou made him a great governor. He realized that the farmland
nearby depended on the water of West Lake, but due to the negligence
of previous governors, the old dyke had collapsed, and the lake so
dried out that the local farmers were suffering from severe drought.
He ordered the construction of a stronger and taller dyke, with a dam
to control the flow of water, providing water for irrigation and
mitigating the drought problem. The livelihood of local people of
Hangzhou improved over the following years.
Bai Juyi used his leisure
time to enjoy the beauty of West Lake, visiting the lake almost every
day. He ordered the construction of a causeway to allow crossing part
of the lake on foot, instead of requiring the services of a boat. A
causeway, the Baisha Causeway, is now commonly referred to as Bai
Causeway (白堤) in Bai Juyi's honour, but the original Bai Causeway
no longer exists.
The most prominent eras in Hangzhou's development history, the Wuyue
Kingdom (907-960) and Southern Song dynasty, had great impacts on West
Lake. The comprehensive development and fundamental layout of West
Lake occurred in these two Dynasties. During Five Dynasties and Ten
Kingdoms period, the
Wuyue Kingdom made
Hangzhou its capital. It
facilitated the transportation to coastal regions, and promoted
trading with foreign countries like
Japan and Korea. In the meantime,
successive rulers in the
Wuyue Kingdom paid great tribute to Buddhism,
and built a number of temples, pagodas, shrines and grottos around the
lake area. They expanded Lingyin Temple, founded Zhaoqing Temple,
Jingci Temple, Li'an Temple, Liutong Temple and Taoguang Temple, and
built Baochu Pagoda, Liuhe Pagoda, Leifeng
Pagoda and White Pagoda.
The area was thus acclaimed as "Buddhist Country". Lingyin Temple,
Tianzhu Temple and the tide of Qiantang were the most famous scenic
spots at that time. Due to the geological characteristics, earth
deposited speedly in
West Lake and dredging became a routine
maintenance. Thus in AD 927, the king of Wuyue, Qian Liu, installed a
lake-dredging army of 1,000 to mow grasses and deepen springs, and
preserved the water body of the lake.
Song dynasty(The Northern Song and The Southern Song)
"The lovely Spring breeze has come
Back to the Lake of the West.
The Spring waters are so clear and
Green they might be freshly painted.
The clouds of perfume are sweeter
Than can be imagined. In the
Gentle East wind the petals
Fall like grains of rice."
Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072), excerpts from Spring Day on West Lake
Over one hundred years later, at the beginning of the Song dynasty's
Yuanyou era (1086–1094), another great poet,
Su Shi (also known as
Su Dongpo), came to
Hangzhou to serve as its governor. At that time,
the farmers suffered greatly drought again, due to overgrowth of the
weeds at the bottom of the lake clogging the irrigation ducts. He
ordered dredging of the lake and piled up all the mud into another
causeway, in the style of Bai Causeway, but much wider and nearly
three times as long: he also planted willow trees along its banks.
This causeway was later named after him as the "Su Causeway". There
are six bridges along the 2.6 km Su
Causeway (蘇堤), and they
are called separately
Bridge, which all symbolize the characteristics of the bridge itself
and also expose the structural beauty and its colorful connotation.
"Dawn on the Su
Causeway in Spring 蘇堤春曉" is one of the
When the Southern
Song dynasty made
Hangzhou its capital in 1127,
Hangzhou became the national center of politics, economy and culture,
and its name was also changed into Lin'an. The population grew
rapidly, and the economy developed greatly.
Hangzhou entered its
heyday. Wu Zimu described the extravagance in his "Mengliang lu"
(Dreaming Over a Bowl of Millet) (夢粱錄), "The life in Lin'an is
luxurious in all seasons, full of delight and appreciation with no
idle days. In the west there is a lovely lake with arresting scenes,
and in the east the river tides are spectacular. Both are miracles."
Besides pilgrims, the tourists in
Hangzhou included envoys of foreign
countries, businessmen, monks and scholar candidates of the imperial
examination. The beauty of
West Lake started to gain wide reputation.
In those days, boating on the lake was a popular entertainment.
According to records, there were hundreds of boats in the West Lake.
All were delicately built, with exquisite carving and decorations, and
glided gracefully on the water. Poet Lin Sheng vividly described the
ostentation in his poem "On a hotel wall in Lin'an". In addition, poet
Yang Wanli (楊萬里) also acclaimed the engaging scenery of West
Lake in the poem "Coming out of
Jingci Temple at dawn to see Lin
Zifang off", which greatly show how thriving this metropolis was at
that time and how yearning it was for people at that time. The
Muqi Fachang came here and refounded the abandoned
monastery Liutong Temple in 1215.
"Green mountains surround on all sides
the still waters of the lake.
Pavilions and towers in hues of gold
and azure rise here and there.
One would say a landscape composed by a painter.
Only towards the east,
where there are no hills,
does the land open out,
and there sparkle, like fishes' scales,
the bright coloured tiles of a thousand roofs."
—From Daily life in
China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion,
In the Yuan dynasty,
West Lake was still socially thriving, with a
population full of exuberance for singing and dancing. Volume 23 of
Book of Yuan says, in the 2nd year of the Zhida era (1309), "in
Hangzhou, Jiang-Zhe area, during half a year there were more than
1,200 foreign visitors. Foreigners Sangwu and Baoheding brought lions,
panthers, crows and falcons. They stayed for 27 days. People and
animals ate meat of more than 1,300 jin." Increasing number of
businessmen and travelers from countries of Turkestan and western
Europe came to visit Hangzhou. The most famous among them was Venetian
explorer Marco Polo, who complimented
Hangzhou in his travel notes as
"the most splendid heavenly city in the world". In the late Yuan
dynasty, there were "Qiantang Ten Scenic Spots", in addition to the
West Lake Ten Scenic Spots" of the Southern Song dynasty; the
existence of which expanded the scope of tourism.
During the Zhiyuan era of the reign of Kublai Khan, the lake was
dredged, and renamed "pond of freeing captive animals" (放生池).
Some of the lake area was gradually enriched and became cultivated
zones. In the late Yuan dynasty,
West Lake lacked governmental
attention, and plutocrats and noblemen enclosed water zones, so that
the lake deteriorated into a desolate state with most of its area
silting up and turning into swampland.
Three Pools Mirroring the Moon in West Lake, Hangzhou, China.
In the later Yuan Dynasty and beginning of the Ming Dynasty, people
attributed the collapse of the Southern Song Dynasty to the West Lake,
because the upper class and emperors indulge themselves into the
melody and wine with the sceneries of the lake. Therefore, people and
the govern's didn't want to make it clean and thriving in case that
this kind of thing happened again.[clarification needed] But later in
the Ming dynasty,
Hangzhou began to restore its prosperity in the
Xuande and Zhengtong eras (1426–1449). Then, the local government
kept a close watch on West Lake. In the 16th year of the Hongzhi era
(one source suggests it was the 3rd year of the Zhengde era) the then
governor Yang Mengying (楊孟瑛), with the support of special envoy
Ju Liang (車粱), obtained approval to dredge the lake, despite much
resistance from local magnates. This project was funded by the
Engineering Department. The
West Lake Visit Guide (西湖游覽志)
recorded, "The work commenced in February... It took 152 days, and
6,700,000 men at a cost of 23,607 silver taels, and the removal of
3,481 acres of illegal fields... Thus,
West Lake was restored to its
image in the Tang and Song dynasties." The dredging project extended
the water surface from west of Su
Causeway to Hongchun Bridge and Mao
Jia Bu. The excavated silt was used to broaden Su Causeway, and also
used to build a long causeway in western Inside Lake, called "Yanggong
Both in the Ming and Qing dynasties,
West Lake was dredged several
times. The silt dug up was heaped to form two islands in the lake,
"Huxin Island" and "Xiao Ying Zhou".
In 1607, the governor of Qiantang County, Nie Xintang (聶心湯),
constructed a circular causeway from south to west outside the
Fangsheng Pond of the island "Xiao Ying Zhou", which resulted in a
unique view of "Island in Lake, Lake in Island". In 1611, Yang Wanli
subsequently built the outer bank, and the whole plot was realized by
1620. Outside the pond were erect three small stony pagodas, called
"Three Ponds (or Pools) Mirroring the Moon" (三潭印月 or Sān tán
yìn yuè), which often give also their name to the Xiao Ying island.
Qian King Temple, one of the major attractions of Xī Hú: Listening
Orioles Singing in the Willows
The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors of the
Qing dynasty toured South
China and stopping by
Hangzhou many times; which helped to expedite
the revamping and rehabilitation of West Lake. The Kangxi Emperor
Hangzhou five times, and wrote the names of "Ten Scenic Spots
of West Lake" selected in the Southern Song dynasty. The local
governor then inscribed the emperor's handwriting onto stelae and
built pavilions over them. Thereafter those scenes such as "Two Peaks
Piercing the Clouds" and "Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn"
acquired fixed locations for appreciation. During the reign of the
Yongzheng Emperor, "Eighteen Scenic Sites of West Lake" had developed
into a new nomenclature together with enriched tourism resources. The
Qianlong Emperor visited
Hangzhou six times, composing poems as well
as erecting stelae for the "Ten Scenic Spots". He also wrote names for
"Eight Scenic Spots of Dragon Well", bringing renown to the
mountainous scenery of remote the Dragon Well region (Longjing). In
the Qianlong era, two
Hangzhou natives, brothers Qu Hao and Qu Han,
co-authored a book called "A Glance at Lakes and Hills", recording as
many as 1,016 tourist spots around West Lake. This is the earliest
known travel guide in Hangzhou.
During the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor,
West Lake still preserved a
water area of 7.54 square kilometers, but more than 20 acres
(81,000 m2) were shoals. Due to extensive dredging projects, the
lake area spread beyond the west of now Xishan Road to the
neighborhood of Hongchun Bridge, Maojia Bu, Turtle Pond, and Chishan
Bu. In the fifth year of the Yongzheng era, the governor of Zhejiang
and Right Vice Director of the Court of Censors, Li Wei, spent 42,742
silver taels to dredge the lake. He built stone weirs in Jinsha
Harbor, Chishan Bu, Jingjia Hill and Maojia Bu in order to store water
and to flush out the lake silt. In 1800, Yan Jian (顏檢), the
governor of Zhejiang, beseeched the imperial court to support a
hydraulic project in West Lake. The project was supervised by the
governor of Zhejiang, Ruan Yuan, who had the excavated silt piled into
a mound, which was then named "Ruan Gong Dun" (阮公墩; "Lord Ruan's
Pier"). By then, the modern configuration of
West Lake was determined.
In 1864, the
West Lake Dredging Bureau was founded, and a Qiantang
native, Ding Bin, was appointed as director.
Republican era to the end of the 20th century
From the end of the
Qing dynasty to the Republican era, the
Shanghai-Hangzhou-Ningbo and the Zhejiang-Jiangxi railways as well as
the Hangzhou-Shanghai, Hangzhou-Nanjing, and Hangzhou-Ningbo highways
were built. This facilitation of transportation encouraged the
development of Hangzhou's tourism industry. Besides traditional
pilgrims, more and more travelers came from domestic cities like
Shanghai and Nanjing as well as from Europe, the United States and
Japan. "The special memorial edition of
Hangzhou government 10th
anniversary" says, from 1930–1936, the recorded tourists to Hangzhou
were counted to 32,845.
Cloud-Sustained Path in a Bamboo Grove
Hangzhou's tourism resources became more abundant in the Republican
era, as scenic spots and cultural relics were steadily added around
West Lake. The government converted the imperial garden of the
imperial palace remaining from the
Qing dynasty into a park, on
Solitary Hill. In 1927, the park was renamed "Zhongshan Park" or "Sun
Yat-sen Park". On the left side of the park, the
Memorial was built, honoring those deceased when the
captured Jinling. In addition, tombs for
Xu Xilin and
Qiu Jin were
constructed near Xiling Bridge. In 1917, the Dabei Pavilion in Lingyin
Temple was erected, and the Yue Wang Temple and Yue Fei's tomb were
renovated several times. From 1923–1931, the Huanglong Dong was
built. From 1923–1924, the deserted Qian King Temple was renovated
and converted to a garden. In 1933, the leaning Baochu
The construction of parks in
Hangzhou started with Lakeside Park in
the Republican era. In 1912, the military government of Zhejiang
demolished the city walls from Qiantang Gate to Yongjin Gate as well
as the fortress of banners, and built Hubing Rd along the lakeside.
Hurdles were put up 20 meters from the lake and flowers and trees were
planted. The area was called "Lakeside Park", covering around one
Chinese mile and was divided into five parks, first to fifth. In the
spring of 1930, the city government paved a land of around 21 mu with
mud dredged out of the lake from north of Changsheng Rd to Qiantang
Gate, and founded Sixth Park. From 1928-1933, Zhejiang's provincial
government erected "Chen Yingshi Statue", "North Expedition Martyr
Memorial Tower" and "Martyrs of 88 Division in Songhu Campaign
Memorial Stela" at the piers of Third Park, Second Park and Fifth
Due to continuous digging by stealth on its base, Leifeng Pagoda,
after lasting nearly a thousand years, collapsed all of a sudden on
September 25, 1924. It was shocking news in media.
Lu Xun purposely
wrote "Comment on the Collapse of Leifeng Pagoda" and "Second Comment
on the Collapse of Leifeng Pagoda", making a remark on this incident.
The fall of Leifeng
Pagoda also put an end to one of "Ten Scenes of
West Lake", "Leifeng
Pagoda in the Sunset" 【雷峰夕照】.
From June 6 to October 20, 1929, the government of
Zhejiang hosted the
West Lake Expo", and total participants numbered over 20
million. The location of
West Lake Expo was set at areas around the
lakeside, such as Broken Bridge, Solitary Hill, Yue-Wang Temple, and
North Hill. The primary purpose of the expo was to promote national
products and encourage enterprises. Besides over 1,000 delegate groups
from nationwide, involved included delegates from America, Japan,
Britain, Indonesia and other countries. It was the largest and longest
Hangzhou during the Republican era.
Misty Trees by Nine Streams
After the establishment of the
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China in 1949,
Hangzhou was among the first places opened to tourism. The city
government preserved the mountain area around the lake and planted a
large number of trees. Meanwhile,
West Lake was extensively dredged.
West Lake scenery zone, a new botanical garden and flower
garden was opened. Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
park, and Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯) park were
constructed. Fish Viewing at the Jade Springs and Yongjin Park were
rebuilt. Lingyin Temple, Jingci Temple, Yue-Wang Temple, Three Ponds
Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月), Lake-heart Pavilion and other spots
were renovated. In addition, West Huanhu Rd (Xishan Rd), Longjin Rd
and Jiuxi Rd were newly built. In 1959,
West Lake of
over 1,400 foreign tourists, over 2,300 tourists from
Hong Kong and
Macao and over five million domestic visitors.
Cultural Revolution Liutong Temple and another temple were
After the Cultural Revolution, the number of tourists to West Lake
increased again. In 1978, it received 53,000 tourists from overseas
Hong Kong and
Macao combined, in addition to about six million
In May 1983, the state council named
Hangzhou "Famed Historical and
Cultural City" and "National Key Scenic Tourism City". In September
1984, the executive office of state council instructed that Hangzhou
evolve to the tourism center of Southeast
China and a first-class
international scenic tourism city. Thereafter
refurbished Lingyin Temple, Tianzhu Temple, Jingci Temple, Yue-Wang
Temple, Dacheng Hall, stela pavilions of "Ten Scenes" and other
relics. Resorts such as Galloping Tiger Spring were expanded. Curved
Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷) park was founded. New
spot "Exploring Plum Blossoms at Ling Peak" (靈峰探梅) was opened.
Archaizing carnivals were held in Huanglong Dong and Ruangong Dun.
There were also night gardens and music night markets for amusement.
West Lake silted up, with average depth of merely 0.55 meters
and capacity only 4 million cubic meters. Marshy weeds blanketed the
lake bed so that large boat could only make their ways through
specific channels. In 1950, the government listed
West Lake dredging
as a national investment project.
Hangzhou launched the West Lake
Dredging Project in 1951 to excavate the silt thoroughly. By 1954, all
the work had been mechanized. The project concluded in 1959. As a
result, the achieved average depth was 1.808 meters with nadir of 2.6
meters. The capacity elevated to 10,271,900 cubic meters. The silt was
used to fill 18 ponds or lacunae in surrounding areas including
Zhaoqing Temple and Qingbo Park. However, because of the erosion and
sediment on lake bed afterward, the depth of the water lessened to
1.47 meters. The government thus invested two million yuan in 1976 to
dredge the lake again. By 1980, the depth increased to 1.5 meters.
Besides dredging work, the city government substantially fortified the
lake shore, resulting in a bank of total length of 29,800 meters. That
was the largest bank enhancement project in the history of West Lake.
Along with the project, more than 10 piers for mooring the boats were
renovated or newly built in Lakeside Park, Zhongshan Park, Yue Fei's
tomb and both sides of Su Causeway.
West Lake Diversion Project was inaugurated on 1 February 1985.
The project built a pump at Zhakou section of Qiantang River, and drew
300,000 cubic meters of water daily, equivalent to one thirty-third of
total capacity of the lake. As a consequence, the lake's water body
transparency was increased by 5 to 7 cm. Other the other hand,
The lake-wide sewage interception project was launched in 1978, and
was finished in 1981. It was divided into three branches, southern,
western and northern, buried sewage tunnels of over 17 kilometers, and
was equipped with 10 pumping stations.
The Back of the One Yuan Bill of RMB, 5th Version.
In 1984, five organizations including
Hangzhou Daily newspaper
sponsored voting for the "New Ten Scenes in West Lake". The elected
new scenes are Cloud-Sustained Path in a Bamboo Grove (雲棲竹徑),
Misty Trees by Nine Streams (九溪煙樹 ), Dreams at Galloping Tiger
Spring (虎跑夢泉), Yellow Dragon Cave Dressed in Green
(黃龍吐翠 ), Sweet
Osmanthus Rain at Manjuelong Village
(滿隴桂雨), Clouds Scurrying over Jade Emperor Hill
(玉皇飛雲), Inquiring about Tea at Dragon Well (龍井問茶),
Precious Stone Hill Floating in Rosy Clouds (寶石流霞), Heavenly
Wind over Wushan Hill (吳山天風), and Ruan's Mound Encircled by
Greenness (阮墩環碧). While embracing both exquisite natural
beauty and abundant cultural deposits,
West Lake of
Hangzhou was among
the first "National Key Scenic Tourist Resorts" in 1982, and elected
one of "Ten Chinese Scenic Sites" in 1985.
After 71 years, the
West Lake Expo was launched in Xi Hu in 2000. The
new exhibition was held from October 20 to November 10, attracting
1,400,000 tourists domestic and overseas. The tourism industry raked
in 1.12 billion RMB. The Expo greatly enhanced the reputation of West
Lake domestically and internationally. Thereafter the
West Lake Expo
was made a conventional annual celebration.
Images of the
West Lake have appeared various times on Chinese
currency. The picture of "Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon" was printed
on the backs of both the foreign exchange certificate one yuan bill
issued by the government in 1979 and the fifth version of RMB one yuan
bill issued in 2004.
Over the centuries, the beauty and culture of
West Lake has attracted
numerous literati, who left behind works of literature and poetry to
describe the lake. For example, Dream in
West Lake and The Enchiridion
of Lake and Mountain recorded a lot about
West Lake and ancient
Hangzhou historic anecdotes. Poets such as Bai Juyi, Su Shi, Xu Zhimo
Hu Shih also wrote countless poems about West Lake. The Chinese
Legend of the White Snake
Legend of the White Snake is also set in
West Lake in Hangzhou
and has been adapted into films and television series over the years.
West Lake Southern Side Renovation Project
Entering the 21st century,
West Lake witnessed several environmental
renovation projects. First of them was "
West Lake Southern Side
Renovation Project". From February to October 2002, Hangzhou
government incorporated four large parks on the southern side of the
lake, and these four parks have been free to public 24 hours a day, 7
days a week. On October 25, 2002, on the old site of the Leifeng
Pagoda which collapsed 78 years ago, a new pagoda with height of 71.7
meters was erected.
About the formation of West Lake, there are few records in ancient
documents. The "
West Lake Sight-Seeing Record" (西湖游覽志) says,
West Lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides. Streams wander
down the hills into the pond. There're hundreds of springs underneath.
Accumulated water forms the lake."
Modern scholars studied topography, geology, sediment and
hydrodynamics, and generally held that
West Lake was a lagoon formed
gradually from a gulf. In 1920, scientist
Zhu Kezhen published "The
Cause of Formation of
West Lake in Hangzhou"
(杭州西湖生成的原因) after examining the topography around
the lake. He claimed, "
West Lake originally was a little bay on left
side of Qiantang River. Later the earth in the river sedimented and
slowly corked the mouth of the bay, hence a lagoon formed." Zhu
postulated, based on the calculation of the rate of sedimentation,
West Lake was formed about 12,000 years ago, when the lake would
have been significantly larger than now; and, that the lake's water
area had gradually shrunk, due to its being filled by sediments
carried down from the creeks in the hills which surround it on three
West Lake would no longer exist today without all the dredging
work done in the historical period. In 1924, geologist Zhang Hongzhao
(章鴻釗) published "One Explanation of the Formation of West Lake".
While supporting Zhu's arguments, he supplemented that the formation
West Lake started with tidal force building the lake bank. Later,
the alterations of the beach helped to maintain the water level. These
were two prerequisites to the formation of the lake.
Lotus in West Lake
West Lake not only hosts abundant natural and cultural resources, it
also possesses various plant resources. Around the year, all kinds of
flowers and plants in
West Lake and on surrounding mountains blossom
alternatively, which enriches the landscape of plantation around the
lake and also significantly improves the environmental quality of the
Peach Blossom: On the lake banks and Su and Bai Causeways a large
number of willows and peach trees are planted. It is said one willow
is accompanied by one peach tree. Other horticultural plants include
magnolia, cherry, Confederate rose, etc. The blooming season of peach
Hangzhou usually ranges from end of February to middle of
Lotus: Some sites in
Hangzhou were named after lotus, such as lotus
pond (荷花池頭) and lotus lane (荷花塘弄). There is
traditional food called "lotus cake". The fossil of lotus seeds was
Kuahuqiao site in Xiaoshan, which indicates at least
Tang dynasty there was cultivated lotus.
Yang Wanli of the
Song dynasty wrote poem, "Lotus leaves grow to the sky with endless
green, lotus blossoms bathed in the sunlight appear especially red.
(接天蓮葉無窮碧，映日荷花别样紅), which brought high
reputation to the lotus in West Lake. Nowadays, there are 14 lotus
cultivation areas in the lake, totally 130 Chinese acres. Most are in
"North Inside Lake" and "Yue Lake". According to statistics, West Lake
lotus starts to bloom in early June, and reaches peak blossom time in
late June. It can last till late August or early September.
Osmanthus: As the city flower, osmanthus is one of representative
plants of Hangzhou. Poet
Bai Juyi wrote "search osmanthus around the
temple on hill in the middle of Autumn", indicating osmanthus had been
cultivated as early as in the Tang dynasty.
Osmanthus trees have been
massively planted in parks around the lake, and the best-known
locations to appreciate are "Sweet
Osmanthus Rain at Manjuelong
Village", one of "New Ten Scenes of West Lake", and
Osmanthus can be divided into four major species,[citation
needed] Thunbergii group(金桂), Latifolius Group (銀桂),
Aurantiacus Group (丹桂) and Fragrans Division (四季桂). Among
them, the Thunbergii and Latifolius are the best. Every year around
mid-autumn, the sweet-scented osmanthus blossoming is a highlight of
tourism in Hangzhou. In addition to its elegant looks, osmanthus is
also edible. Thunbergii and Latifolius boast intensive sweet scent,
and are natural ingredients for seasoning. Pickled osmanthus blossoms
mixed with white sugar became a traditional food of Hangzhou, "Sweet
Osmanthus blooming period commences
from early September, lasting till early November.
Lin Bu (林逋), a famous recluse in the Song dynasty,
lived on Solitary Hill. His poem Little Plum Blossom of Hill Garden
(山園小梅) became the best known poem praising the flower and
enriched the cultural contributions of the plum blossoms of West Lake.
The opening line of the poem says, "When everything has faded they
alone shine forth, encroaching on the charms of smaller gardens"
(眾芳搖落獨暄妍，占斷風情向小園). Ling Peak,
Solitary Hill and West Creek have long been the three finest spots of
plum blossom cherishing in Hangzhou. The flowering season is typically
around the Spring Festival, from late January to middle February.
Tulip: The "Prince Bay Park" (太子灣公园) of
almost all species of tulips from Netherlands in 1992, and held annual
tulips exhibition ever since. It has become a new scenic spot on the
lake bank. The normal tulips blossom season spans from middle of March
to end of April.
View of Xī Hú from a row boat
Because the city government has paid increasing attention to
environmental protection, the ecological conditions in
West Lake area
have been gradually improved. Mallards, halcyons and koi carp are
among the most frequently spotted animals in the lake. Squirrels
loiter among the trees on the bank.
"I've never traveled to Hangzhou's West Lake
But seem to have met it in my dreams someplace:
A vague and indistinct expanse of water and clouds
Where lotus leaves merge with weeping-willow branches."
Huang Zunxian (1848–1905), excerpts from A Trip to Lake Abundant
(translation by Jerry Dean Schmidt)
A miniature replica of the
West Lake inside the
Gifu Park in Gifu,
West Lake is said to be the incarnation of Xi Shi, one of the Four
Beauties of ancient China. Since ancient times,
West Lake was
associated with a large number of romantic poets, profound
philosophers, national heroes and heroines.
West Lake was also the
retreat for many Chinese writers of the past. The Northern Song
Dynasty poet Lin Bu, shunning the life of being an official, lived in
West Lake for twenty years, and dedicated himself to the
cultivation of peach and plum blossoms. The great Ming dynasty
essayist Zhang Dai, wrote a number of essays about
West Lake in
Reminiscence and Dream of Tao'an (陶庵夢憶), and a whole book:
West Lake in Dreams (西湖夢尋).
West Lake has had a
profound impact on Far Eastern landscape designs, and its features
have often been imitated by other palaces and gardens, such as Kunming
Lake at the
Summer Palace in Beijing, the central ponds of the Kyu
Shiba Rikyu Garden and
Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden
Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden in Tokyo, Japan,
Due to its prominent historical and cultural status,
West Lake was
selected as a National Key Scenic Resort in 1982, one of Ten Scenic
Resorts in 1985 and a national 5A tourist resort in 2006.
Along with its cultural importance,
West Lake historically was also of
value for local commercial fishermen. According to statistics from
1977, the lake had an annual fish yield of 1300 kg/hectare, quite
a bit more than for some larger lakes (that is, East Lake of Wuhan had
a yield of only 450 kg/ha).
Yue Fei Memorial Hall
Other attractions include:
Yue Fei Temple
Yue Fei Temple (岳王庙), the tomb and memorial hall to Yue
Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺), a Buddhist monastery and surrounding
Long Jing tea farms (龙井茶园), an area renowned for the quality
Jingci Temple （净慈寺）
Galloping Tiger Spring (虎跑梦泉), a spring famous for its mineral
Su Xiao Xiao
Su Xiao Xiao (苏小小墓)
West Lake Museum (located on the lake shore) is dedicated to the
cultural heritage of the West Lake.
Ten Scenes of West Lake
Traditionally, there are ten best-known scenic spots on the West Lake,
each remembered by a four-character epithet. Collectively, they are
known as the "Ten Scenes of West Lake" (10 Scenic Spots in West Lake
西湖十景). Each is marked by a stele with an epithet written in
the calligraphy of the Qianlong Emperor. They are:
Dawn on the Su
Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷)
Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月)
Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (斷橋殘雪)
Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚鐘)
Galloping Tiger Spring
A traditional Xī Hú entrance
The Guozhuang Garden, one of many historic gardens in the West Lake
Lotus in the Breeze at the Winding Courtyard
View of the Su Causeway
Statue of Qian Liu, the founder and first king of the Kingdom of
Wuyue, near the West Lake
Statue of Yue Fei, a patriotic military general from the Southern Song
dynasty, near the West Lake
Lotus at the
West Lake during summer
Notes and references
^ Yang, Hongxun and Huimin Wang (1982). The classical gardens of
China: history and design techniques. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
p. 111. ISBN 0-442-23209-8.
^ a b c "Ancient Chinese cultural landscape, the
West Lake of
Hangzhou, inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List". UNESCO.
^ 100 Poems from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth
Jacques Gernet (1962). Daily life in China, on the eve of the Mongol
invasion, 1250-1276. Stanford University Press. p. 23.
^ Dai Xiaoxiao and Pan Jiankai (2002-10-26). "The Building of New
Pagoda Completed". Guangming Daily (in Chinese). Retrieved
^ Red Pine. Poems of the Masters. Port Townsend, Copper Canyon Press,
^ Jerry Dean Schmidt (1994). Within the human realm: the poetry of
Huang Zunxian, 1848-1905. Cambridge University Press. p. 81.
^ "Hangzhou's West Lake, the most beautiful in China". Imperial
^ American Oceanography Delegation, Committee on Scholarly
Communication with the
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China (1980), Oceanography
in China: a trip report of the American Oceanography Delegation
submitted to the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the
People's Republic of China, Issue 9 of CSCPRC report, Committee on
Scholarly Communication with the
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China (U.S.).,
National Academies, p. 13
Wikimedia Commons has media related to West Lake.
Hangzhou Government website
Ten Classic Scenes of
West Lake in History
Official Travel Guide of
West Lake –
Hangzhou Tourism Commission
Hangzhou West Lake: Too many places, too little time
World Heritage Sites in China
Classical Gardens of Suzhou
Cemetery of Confucius
Cemetery of Confucius and Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
Xidi, and Hongcun
Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains
Historic Centre of Macau
Diaolou and Villages
Historic Monuments of Dengfeng, including the
Shaolin Monastery and
Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art
Chengjiang Fossil Site
Dazu Rock Carvings
Potala Palace, including the
Jokhang and Norbulingka
Honghe Hani Rice Terraces
Old Town of Lijiang
Mount Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha
Mount Qingcheng and Dujiangyan
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries
Three Parallel Rivers
Chengde Mountain Resort, including Putuo Zongcheng Temple, Xumi Fushou
Temple and Puning Temple
Temple of Heaven
Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
Qinghai Hoh Xil
Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
Lakes of China
Five Great Lakes
Notable freshwater lakes
Heaven (Changbai Tianchi)
Notable salt lakes
Rakshastal (La-Ang Tso)
East Lake (Wuhan)
Major urban lakes
See also: List of dams and reservoirs in China
East Asian traditional landscape design
Classical Gardens of Suzhou
Gardens around the West Lake
Old Summer Palace
Chengde Mountain Resort
Rear Garden of Changdeokgung
Katsura Imperial Villa
Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Hayama Imperial Villa
Suzaki Imperial Villa
Garden of the Prince Gong Mansion
Gardens in Peking University
Qing Hui Yuan
Yu Yin Shan Fang