Hangzhou was an ancient capital city of China approximately 800 years ago and is the modern day capital of the Zhejiang province. This storied city is home of the West Lake Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is connected to Beijing via the Grand Canal, the world’s longest and oldest working canal, stretching 1,794 kilometers. In 2016, Hangzhou hosted the G20 Summit and in 2022 will host the Asian Games. Hangzhou is also a modern hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, with the headquarters for successful start-ups, such as Alibaba, the world’s biggest online commerce company; Wahaha, China’s beverage industry leader; Geely, the largest shareholder in Mercedes-Benz; and Hikvision, the world’s largest manufacturer of video surveillance products and solutions. It is also home to a vibrant private sector, including 44 of the top 500 private companies in China, and home to 26 “unicorn” companies and more than 100 soon-to-be-unicorns.
The Three Pools Mirroring the Moon is the largest island on the West Lake. Its name comes from the three magic stone pagodas south of the island. The stone pagodas were originally built in 1089 during the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Erected by the poet and public official Su Shi, their purpose was to indicate that water chestnuts and lotus plants were not allowed to be grown in the area to prevent silt from building up in the lake. Later, during the reign of Emperor Wanli in the Ming Dynasty, the three pagodas were rebuilt. The existing ones were reconstructed in 1699 during the 38th year of Emperor Kangxi’s reign in the Qing Dynasty. The three stone pagodas stand on the three deep-water pools in an equilateral triangle on the West Lake.
The West Lake Cultural Square was built in 2002 with an area of 13.3 hectares. The whole design is based on the architectural backgrounds of the West Lake Culture, Grand Canal Culture, and Ancient Pagoda Culture. The square is dominated by the 170-meter high Zhengjiang Global Center, with 41 floors. The construction of the skyscraper was completed in 2005. The square is designed for leisure, entertainment, science, and performing arts exhibitions. It also accommodates Zhejiang Natural History Museum and Zhejiang Museum of Science and Technology.
Wushan is the eastern tail of the West Lake’s South Hill protruding into the downtown area of Hangzhou. The busy pedestrian street known as Hefang Street is located below its north slope. Wushan is replete with beautiful caves, clear springs, weird rocks, and elegant landscapes. On its hilltop, you can have a panoramic view of Hangzhou’s rivers, mountains, lakes, and the city itself, a big draw around the West Lake. The iconic pavilion, Chenghuang Pavilion (City God Pavilion), was built on the mountain top. It is 41.6 meters high, with seven stories and an area of 3,789 square meters. It is constructed in the styles of the Song and Yuan dynasties, with upturned eaves and cornices. It looks like a phoenix spreading its wings in the air. On its first two floors, the pavilion has a strong focus on displaying the characteristics of Hangzhou, including the local history, culture, and customs, while its higher floors focus on leisure, views, and entertainment.
The West Lake is surrounded by hills on its three sides – North Hill, South Hill, and West Hill – with its east water edge bordering Hangzhou city’s downtown area. Baoshi Shan or Precious Stone Hill is an important part of the North Hill and is located on the north bank of the West Lake. There are numerous paths leading up to the hill, either from the lakeside or from its north hillside. Baoshi Shan is dotted with unique caves and Buddhist and Taoist shrines. The slender Pagoda rises atop Precious Stone Hill, where you can have a panoramic view of West Lake and the city as a whole, one of the two best West Lake viewing places. It was originally built with nine stories in 963 and reconstructed in 1933 with seven stories. It is built of brick and stone without an internal staircase. The Baochu Pagoda is the essential landmark on the northern lake shore of the West Lake.
As one of the landmarks in Hangzhou, Leifeng Pagoda is a perfect place for having a panoramic view of the West Lake. The Pagoda is situated on the Sunset Hill on the south of the West Lake. First built in 975 AD, it was made of brick and wood with its base built out of bricks. During the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), Japanese pirates burned down Leifeng Pagoda’s wooden structure, leaving only the brick skeleton. Hangzhou City and Zhejiang Province decided to rebuild Leifeng Pagoda on the ruined base in 1999. The new tower opened on 25 October 2002. It has four sightseeing elevators and modern facilities, including air conditioners, TVs, and speakers. A huge iron and steel structure now stands on the original base of the pagoda, which has been kept in good condition. At the entrance to the pagoda, there is one autonomous escalator to take visitors up to the pagoda’s base.
Liuhe Pagoda is a must-see on your first trip to Hangzhou. “Liuhe” literally means the harmony of east, west, south, north, heaven, and earth, the six Buddhist ordinances. So Liuhe Pagoda is often translated in English as “Six Harmonies Pagoda.” It is located at the foot of Yuelun Hill, facing the Qiantang River. Fortunately, Liuhe Pagoda has survived a number of natural and man-made disasters, making it both treasured and worthy of visiting. Liuhe Pagoda itself is composed of parts: the seven-story inner stone pagoda and the 13-story outer wooden pagoda. The inner stone pagoda of the present Liuhe Pagoda is proved to be the original one, dating back to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279). The outer wooden structure was built in the Qing Dynasty (around 1900). There is a spiral staircase leading to the top floor, and each of the seven ceilings have carved and painted figures, including animals, flowers, birds, and characters.
Gongchen Bridge is the landmark of the Grand Canal Hangzhou. The Grand Canal Hangzhou is the final section of the Chinese Grand Canal. It is known for being the earliest and longest artificial waterway in the world, starting from Beijing in the north and ending at Hangzhou in the south for a total length of 1776 km. The name of the landmark bridge, “Gongchen,” literally means “respect the emperor.” In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) and Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) traveled six times each along the Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou for the inspection and sightseeing. Gongchen Bridge stood there respecting and welcoming the emperor, hence the name. East of Gongchen Bridge is the Grand Canal Cultural Square, where the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal Museum is located.
Hangzhou Grand Theatre was designed by the internationally known Canadian architect Carlos Ott. It comprises an opera house, a concert hall, a multifunction hall, an open-air stage, and a culture square. A new landmark in Hangzhou, the Grand Theatre is famous for its unique architecture. The silky titanium roof symbolizes the pearl; the slant surface made of the double-curved glass curtain wall represents the moon; a pool of over 6,000 square meters in front of Hangzhou Grand Theatre stands for the beautiful West Lake.
Qinghefang Old Street is a good place for experiencing the life of Old Hangzhou, because it is the epitome of historic Hangzhou. It is a place for shopping, eating, and sightseeing. You can see well-preserved old buildings, explore interesting stores, and buy some souvenirs.
Lingyin Temple is one of the most famous ancient Buddhist monasteries in China and contains numerous pagodas and Buddhist grottoes. The temple is situated northwest of Hangzhou. In front of it are the Peak That Flew Here and the Cold Spring. Surrounding the temple are majestic peaks and sky-reaching ancient trees; it is really a tourist attraction that can offer you appealing places of historic interest and cultural relics, as well as agreeable natural scenery with woods, flowers, springs, etc. The monastery was founded at the foot of Lingyin Mountain in 326 AD during the Eastern Jin Dynasty. The existing temple was rebuilt during the 19th Century in the late Qing Dynasty. The Hall of Mahavira (great hero) inside the temple houses the statue of Sakyamuni (563 - 483 BC), which was carved out of 24 pieces of camphor wood. In front of the Hall are two pagodas of rock that were built in 960 AD during the Song Dynasty.