Make Your Travel Easy
MaoJiaBu lies just off the middle section of Yanggong Causeway – a raised road that runs the span of West Lake’s western bank. Although only a stone’s throw from Beishan Road on the northern bank, the wild countryside feel of this tiny village will bring you worlds away. Discover folk cottages, lush green flora and dancing willows. Wander winding paths of reed, wood and cobbled stone into reed forests. Besides swimming ducks and songs of low-flying birds – silence.
Maojiabu is one of ten newly listed West Lake attractions.
According to locals, the “Mao” in “Maojiabu” refers to the grass thatches commonly used as cottage roofing in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The village also marks the starting point of the Ancient Shangxiang pilgrimage path. Here is where you’ll find that picturesque slice of Chinese countryside – that image of the sparkling misted lake you’ve imagined in a day-dream. The mild subtropical air makes grasses grow at surreal speeds. Wooden walkways constructed on the lake’s edge offer the ideal route for admiring reflections on the lake’s surface and make an otherwise long walk carefree and refreshing. After passing under the Yujian Bridge over a grass-grown floating bridge, the walkway arrives at a small bamboo wood pier – just like something from a movie.
A hotspot for local youth, the Four-eyed Well area is defined by its artistic atmosphere and ambitious cuisine. The Four-eyed Well combines traditional elements such as characteristic Chinese teahouses with trendy youth hostels and themed restaurants to create an atmosphere unique to our age. Shambhala, Hidden Garden and Chaxiang Lishe - this is truly an environment to inspire the imagination.
Gemstone Hill, which gets its name from the sparkling red ridges of igneous rock that cover it, sits to the north of West Lake. At dawn and dusk, crystallised minerals dusting the rock’s surface reflect sunlight and sparkle like glittering gemstone. The beauty of this sight is attested by the fact that “Gemstone Bathed in Flowing Rosy Clouds” is a name set in Chinese Legend. To top it all off, the hill also affords a spectacular panoramic view of West Lake (permitted you’ve come on a clear day!)
The World Cultural Heritage in Hangzhou
A bike ride around West Lake may just be the most classically simple tour experience Hangzhou has to offer. Just grab a rental bike and set off, down the picturesque Su Causeway, to the Broken Bridge, onto Nanshan Road and over to Lakeside Park. You’ll find yourself away from the bustling crowds as you pass onto Yangong Causeway and Dragon Well Road.
Not many of the world’s lakes have made the cut for the UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list, but the West Lake in Hangzhou has. Located southwest of downtown Hangzhou – capital of Zhejiang Province. The city is renowned for enchanting natural scenery and numerous historical relics left behind by ancient personages and artists. The resultant beauty is summed up perfectly by Chinese adage: “Above, there is heaven. Below, Su and Hangzhou.”
Su Dongpo, a poet and trusted official of the Song Dynasty emperor, once said that of the thirty-six lakes in China that go by the name ‘West Lake’, Hangzhou’s is best. Rolling hills surround the Lake on all but a single urban edge. Whether adorned by man-made structures or stark in its naked beauty the Lake is a sight to behold.
In the past West Lake has been called by several names – the Wulin Water, Qiantang Lake, Xizi Lake – gradually coming to be known by its current name around the Song Dynasty.
The ‘ten old scenes’ noted since the Song Dynasty include: The Spring Dawn Breaking Over Su Causeway, the Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden, the Autumn Moon over the Still Lake, Melting Snow at Broken Bridge, Viewing Fish at Flower Haven, Orioles Singing in the Willows, the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds, the Glow of Sunset upon Leifeng Pagoda and finally the Evening Bell-toll at Nanping[Names like this often go by translations on competing travel websites. We should probably use the names google uses (for the convenience of tourists researching/organising travel)] Hill.
The new ten scenes include: The Bamboo-lined Path at Yunqi, Osmanthus Rain in Manjuelong Village, the Dream of Tiger-sprint Spring, Tea Tasting at the Dragon Well, Nine Creeks in Misty Forest, Heavenly Wind at Wushan Hill, Ruan Gong Islet Submerged in Greenery, Yellow Dragon Cave Dressed in Green, Soaring Clouds over Yuhuang Hill and the Gemstone Bathed in Flowing Rosy Clouds.
Synonymous with the name West Lake are cloud-misted mountains, shining waters and classic historical relics. No matter the season or weather, the lake never fails to provide an enchanting scene.
The Su and Bai Causeways are thin trans-lake embankments that cut the lake into five parts. On a morning walk along the causeway, cherish the view as the sun rises and pierces the misty air veiling the six bridges – a truly unforgettable sight.
Master ‘Amateur’ Architect Wang Shu’s other-worldly garden is somewhat of an dreamy Xanadu recreation of some water villages in the Hangzhou area. Here Wang adapts architectural features of traditional China, bringing Chinese concepts in space, poetry and aesthetics together to create captivating contemporary structural works.
Among the major projects overseen by Wang Shu are the First and Second Phases of the construction of Xiangshan Campus of the China Academy of Art, where Wang works as director of the department of architecture.
The campus is situated amongst the rolling hills and gentle streams of Zhuantang Town in South-western Hangzhou. While on the one hand Wang’s creations are clearly Chinese in style, they are something unprecedented in Chinese architecture.
Over three million pieces of waste brick and tile of various ages were recovered from different places throughout South-eastern China and reused to complete the project to reduce construction costs.
Traditional courtyards space campus buildings in a way that gives the illusion that the structures have grown naturally up out of the ground. Enjoy this scenic attraction with a leisurely walk along spacious corridors, by art exhibits, hillside kiosks and huts on the waters’ edge.
The campus showcases characteristic features of Chinese architecture: simplicity and humility, and above all harmony with the natural environment. Timber, steel and concrete structures blend seamlessly into the land, hills and water in this beautiful testament to the Chinese architectural tradition.
Qiantang River Bridge
The first bridge on Qiantang River
Dragon Well Village and the surrounding hillside land is the centre of production for Longjing (or “Dragon Well”) tea – a leading variety in China. Longjing Tea is characterised by its rich yet soft aroma, refreshing sweet taste distinctively lacking in bitterness and the smooth flat appearance of the tea leaves. Longjing tea has a long history, and numerous associations - the mountain-set lake scenery, Buddhist ritual and natural spring water among them.
The peculiar Chinese saying “Long Jing Wen Cha”, translated literally, means “to learn from tea at the Dragon Well” – one can see, the tea is seen as a teacher, and that in the experience of tasting the tea, one may learn of all things connected to it - the environment, the culture.
Dragon Well Village is located south-west of West Lake. About 1,100 years ago the village was also home to the Dragon Well Monastery. Legend has it that during a period of drought, a monastery monk used the well to summon a Sea Dragon to bring rain to the parched land, and in this way, the Well became infused with its essence. It is said that evidence for the uncommon nature of the well’s water can be seen when the well is stirred, as in its centre a mysterious line appears, wriggles, then slowly vanishes.
Arriving at the Northern Song dynasty (960 - 1127 AD), Tea Tasting at the Dragon Well had become tradition. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties this became a leisure activity to be enjoyed during ones off time. In testament to its quality, the tea also became a product supplied to the Imperial Palace in Beijing, which helped to spread its name further. It is also known that on one occasion Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong came to Dragon Well Village to pick tea leaves personally. Today 18 ‘imperial’ tea trees remain in the plantation as relics of that event.
One of the Ten Great Buddhist Monasteries in China's Zen Sect
The three Tianzhu Monasteries – namely: Dharma ‘Mirror’, Dharma ‘Purity’ and Dharma ‘Joy’ are located not far from Lingyin Temple (Temple of the Souls’ Retreat). Not unlike Lingyin, the scenery amongst which the Tianzhu Monasteries rest – a scene of shrouded soaring peaks and rolling blue-green hills – is truly a breath unto the soul; a real Buddhist retreat. Here Hangzhou’s senior gents and ladies make a hobby of visiting, offering burning incense to the Buddha.
The three monasteries are also known as the Upper, Middle an Lower Tianzhus respectively, and are all well-known Buddhist places of worship. Lower Tianzhu is the oldest with a history of 1,600 years. However even the youngster among them - the Upper Tianzhu, still has about a thousand of history. Emperor Qianlong formally named the monasteries to be Dharma ‘Joy’, Dharma ‘Mirror’ and Dharma ‘Purity’, contributing to the temples large name plaques inscribed by his own hand.
The largest of the Tianzhus - the Dharma ‘Joy’ Monastery, was built in 939AD by Dao Yu, a master monk of the White Cloud Peak. It was later, in the Qing dynasty that Emperor Qianlong (1711 - 1799) conferred the name of Dharma Joy. Large-scale restorative work was carried out on the monastery in 1898, 1985, 1991 and 2006.
The Dharma ‘Purity’, originally known as Middle Tianzhu, was established in 597 by a Zen Buddhist master. Although formally named Dharma ‘Purity’ in 1762 by Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong, the monastery had been called by the same name since the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). After vigorous restoration efforts in 1892 the monastery suffered great losses due to a fire in 1947, but after further work its original architecture was preserved. In 2006 the Dharma ‘Purity’ was also subject to massive repair and renovation.
The Dharma ‘Mirror’(Lower Tianzhu) sleeps amongst three landmarks - beside the Lingyin area, east of the ‘Peak Flying from Afar’ and west of ‘Sweet Osmanthus Peak’. Again, the monastery was renamed by Emperor Qianlong during his reign. Later, in 1861, a devastating fire sparked by a battle enveloped the temple, turning it to ash. The monastery was fully rebuilt in 1882, and repair and renovations were done in 2006.
The Dharma ‘Mirror’ is the only Hangzhou monastery that houses Buddhist nuns.
Hangzhou's Vibrant Nightlife Area
Lingyin Monastery is a booming pilgrimage destination – a favourite spot to offer up a freshly sparked stick of incense, especially in the minutes and hours following the midnight which mark the beginning of Chinese New Year.
On your average working-day the crowds clear away, but still many local adherents come to present offerings to the Buddha and pray for blessing and fortune. If you’re interested in experiencing Hangzhou’s Buddhist culture, this is the place.
Lingyin Monastery is one of the ten most spectacular Zen Buddhist monasteries in China. Also known as the ‘Zen Temple of Cloud Forest’, the monastery is situated north-west of West Lake and belongs to the West Lake scenic area. Lingyin, literally translated “soul’s retreat”, was initially built in 326 AD, making it the oldest Buddhist monastery in Hangzhou.
Hidden in lush hilly forest, the monastery was named due to its seclusion, which affords grateful pilgrims and believers a serene haven for rest. Although today, owing to the temples’ fame, this serenity is to some degree lost to the bustling crowds of incense-toting worshipers, local legends attest to the location’s magic and assure that your prayers here are to be answered!
Walking along the engraved screen wall that faces onto the great gates of the monastery one comes to rest by Ligong Pagoda. The Ligong Pagoda house the remains of master monk Huili – Indian monk and founder of the Lingyin Monastery. The pagoda is a seven-tiered octagonal structure which stands eight meters tall. From here a tall red-brick wall blocks view of the Monastery. Off to the left the runs the Cold Spring, with the ‘Peak Flown from Afar’ rising a short distance away. After following the Cold Spring’s edge through ancient forest, you arrive before the monastery entrance.
At the doors of the Temple of the Heavenly King is a large inscribed imperial plaque conferred by Qing emperor Kangxi which reads “Cloud Forest Zen Monastery”. It is said that Emperor Kangxi came to Hangzhou in 1689, and paid a visit to Lingyin. One morning, as Emperor Kangxi and the presiding master monk of Lingyin made the hike to nearby Beigao Peak, the emperor noticed that the monastery sat shrouded by cloud and forest mist. Later, the master made a request for the emperor’s royal inscription, at which time Kangxi wrote down the words “Cloud Forest Zen Monastery”. However, locals already used to the name Lingyin continued calling it such, and this name is still prevalent today.
Lingyin hiking tours are markedly popular with domestic and foreign travellers alike. Our recommended route is: Lingyin - Upper Tianzhu - Nine Dragons and Eight Towers - Heavenly Gate (Tianmen) Hill - Ten-mile Langdang - Five-cloud Hill - Linhai Kiosk - Nine Creeks.
The Best View for the West Lake
A line from the 2008 film ‘If You are the One’, a movie about dating and love in China has drawn fame to Hangzhou’s Xixi district. The offers views of natural wildlife unique in Hangzhou.
Here each season offers unique delights: Enjoy a slow boat ride to the heart of the Wetland amidst the serene scene of dancing willows in Spring, crimson persimmons and green reeds in fall and plum blossoms and snow in the winter. Out of the boat, enjoy leisurely walks in early spring or water chestnut picking and lotus watching in the summer. Soak in the parks’ natural beauty.
The wetland is one the three Hangzhou “Xi's” (meaning West in Chinese), a set including West Lake (or “Xihu” in Chinese) and Xiling (Society of Seal-carving).
The Xixi wetland is the only one in China in which urban, agricultural and cultural wetland scenes are combined into one coherent whole. This rare secondary eco wetland is positioned about five kilometers north-west of West Lake, and is only a short drive away along Tianmushan Road.
The soul of the wetland and essential source of its beauty is – of course – the water, which covers 70% of its area. Rivers, lakes, ponds and marshes dot the area. A total of six rivers criss-cross like a net, with pretty little islets decorating their intersecting points.