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Home Travel in Zhejiang Ten Scenes of the West Lake(1)
Ten Scenes of the West Lake(1)
Travel in Zhejiang


   West Lake
"Rippling waters shimmering on a sunny day, Misty mountains shrouded in rain; Plain or gaily dressed like Xizi (xī zǐ 西子); West Lake is always alluring." These are the words used by the celebrated Song Dynasty (sòng cháo 宋朝) poet Su Dongpo (sū dōng pō 苏东坡) to describe West Lake (xī hú 西湖) in Hangzhou (háng zhōu 杭州).

Regarded by many as China’s most beautiful lake, standing on its shores, it’s easy to understand Su’s allusion to Xizi, reputedly ancient China’s most beautiful woman. The subject of many of the country’s most famous literary and artistic works, and the inspiration for countless more, West Lake has for centuries been working its charm on all those who gaze upon it.

Located in Hangzhou, a medium-sized city three and a half hours’ drive from Shanghai (shàng hǎi 上海), 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"(xī hú shí jǐng 西湖十景). A collection of ten scenic views formed during the Southern Song Dynasty (nán sòng 南宋), they are distributed around and within the Spring Dawn at Su Causewaylake, 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.

First is the Spring Dawn at Su Causeway (sū dī chūn xiǎo 苏堤春晓), 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.


Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked CourtyardThen comes the Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard (qǔ yuàn fēng hé 曲院风荷). 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.

Autumn Moon on Calm LakeThe next listed on the ten scenic itineraries is the Autumn Moon on Calm Lake (píng hú qiū yuè 平湖秋月). At the western end of Bai Causeway (bái dī 白堤) is located a lakeside park which houses a stone tablet bearing the etched calligraphy of Emperor Kangxi (kāng xī 康熙) of the Qing Dynasty (qīng cháo 清朝), 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.

Melting Snow on the Broken BridgeThe most romantic scene of the ten must-see around the West Lake is the Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge (duàn qiáo cán xuě 断桥残雪). The stone-arched Broken Bridge is where the characters of a famous Chinese folktale, Xu Xian (xǔ xiān 许仙) 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".

Listening to Orioles Singing in the WillowsRetreating from the legendary bridge, here we come to the Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows (liǔ làng wén yīng 柳浪闻莺), 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.