West Lake

Summer in West Lake
The entire West Lake Scenic Area (Xihu Lake) covers 60 square kilometer even though West Lake itself is only 5.6 sq km. The lake is surrounded by hills on three sides and faces downtown Hangzhou on the fourth side. The peaceful West Lake, the jewel of Hangzhou, has two causeways (Bai and Su), which separate the lake into five parts. The lake also had three manmade islands: Three Pools Mirroring the moon, Mid-lake Pavilion and Mr. Ruan Yuan's Mount all in the outer lake. 

West Lake is famous not just for its beautiful waters but also for its surrounding hills with irregular shaped peaks and dense forests that provide gorgeous fall foliage. During the springtime, many flowers will bloom scattering color across the lake's mountainous backdrop. The lake's change over the seasons presents scenery that just keeps getting more beautiful.  

Boat, Xihu Lake (West Lake)
Located in Hangzhou, a medium-sized city three and a half hours' drive from Shanghai, the lake is a popular day trip included on many Shanghai travel itineraries. Visitors to the lake can plan to spend their time viewing the "Ten Scenes of the West Lake". A collection of ten scenic views formed during the Southern Song Dynasty, they are distributed around and within the lake, and serve to show the charms of the West Lake – through a use of varying locations, varying seasons, and varying times of day. Each scene is unique, and when taken together, are said to present the essence of West Lake scenery, and form the core of any West Lake tour.

Xihu Lake (West Lake)
First is the Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, which is a thin strip of land nearly three kilometers long covered with peach and weeping willow trees. In spring, with the lakeside sparkling in the morning dew, birds cheerfully chirping among swaying willow branches, the scent of peach blossoms wafting through the air, you'll question whether you're in the midst of paradise.

Then comes the Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard. This typical West Lake scene has earned its fame since the Southern Song Dynasty, when the lakeside area with an abundant growth of lotus off its shores was known as Crooked Courtyard, and was the location of a brewery. People said the smell of lotus flowers and wine blended by the cool lake breezes was intoxicating. Nowadays the brewery is gone, and the area has been turned into a big park, but plenty of lotus plants still bloom off its shores. They stand gracefully erect in the lake, as if they knew they had visitors coming to admire their beauty.

Xihu (West Lake)
The next listed on the ten scenic itineraries is the Autumn Moon on Calm Lake. At the western end of Bai Causeway is located a lakeside park which houses a stone tablet bearing the etched calligraphy of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, which reads: "Autumn Moon on Calm Lake". The lake is a special place to appreciate the moon and the effect of moonlight on the land. The moon seems especially bright over the waters. The hills look purplish bathed in the moonlight. The best time for nighttime viewing is on Mid-Autumn Day.

The most romantic scene of the ten must-see attractions around the West Lake is the Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge. The stone-arched Broken Bridge is where the characters of a famous Chinese folktale, Xu Xian and a beautiful girl, who is actually a white snake, first met and fell in love with each other.

After a snowfall, when the snow on the more exposed side has melted, with the shaded side remaining white, it looks as if a long white belt has been ripped apart on the bridge, thus earning the name "Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge".

Retreating from the legendary bridge, here we come to the Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows, an imperial garden built up in the Southern Song Dynasty. Now the once-imperial garden has been turned into a park open to all. Featuring green willows and singing orioles, there are lawns, pavilions, and bridges that are very impressive, as well.

Another spot to check up the vivid life and catch up with birds chirping out of the ten charms of the West Lake is the Viewing Fish and Lotus Ponds at Flower Pond Over here Flower Pond Park occupies an area of twenty-one hectares on a peninsula in the southwest corner of the lake. In its heart is the Red Fish Pond, where people can relax to the sight of brightly colorful fish swimming around and to the brisk melody of chirpy birdsong. To stay with nature is a highly enjoyable experience.

Leifeng Pagoda is another renowned scenic spot in Hangzhou. Originally built in the 10th century, Leifeng Pagoda used to stand in front of Jingxi Temple on Nanping Mountain; though failed to stand the test of time, the Pagoda collapsed in early 1900s. In 2002, Leifeng Pagoda was reconstructed; then comes back the typical Sunset Glow over Leifeng Pagoda, one of the ten charms of West Lake, as the Pagoda looks especially majestic when surrounded by the golden hues of the setting sun. With combination of a traditional aesthetic style and modern architecture techniques, Leifeng Pagoda affords a view of West Lake in its entirety.

While it's difficult to take your eyes off the tranquil waters, take time to gaze at the skies above West Lake. You'll be rewarded with the sight of two limestone mountains past the northern edge of the lake, one to the northeast and one to the northwest, five kilometers apart. On a drizzling day in spring or autumn, the two peaks come and go amongst the drifting rain clouds. And here comes the name of Twin Peaks Soaring through the Clouds, another scene you cannot miss around the West Lake.

Personally I award the title of the Most Poetic to the Evening Bell at Nanping Mountain, out of the ten collections of the West Lake views. Nanping Mountain stretches along the southern bank of the Lake. At dusk, with the sun slowly drifting into the Lake on the west, a huge bell at Jingxi Temple, will ring its farewell to the last sunbeam of the day. With the prolonged bell sound reverberating across the Lake, the peaceful and sacred air offers you a perfect occasion for meditation.

If you can catch one of the tour coaches that leave after dusk, the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon should not to be missed. Just off the southern shore of the Island of Little Oceans stand three small pagodas that seem to float on the water. Each about 2 meters high, when candles are placed inside on moonlit nights, the effect is of 4 moons dancing on the shimmering night waters. The scene is especially magical when the giant glowing moon on the night of Mid-Autumn Day is overhead.

In recent years, the people of Hangzhou have selected "Ten New Scenes of the West Lake", as well as built a few new attractions – for example a tea museum, a silk museum, etc. The ten new scenes are beautiful, and the new attractions will leave you with a greater appreciation for the area's famous commodities. But if you only have a day, it‘s tough to argue with the tried and true.

Admission Fee: Free