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West Lake is located in the south-west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. With its beautiful lakes, mountains and many attractions, it has become the world-famous tourist destination and is known as the "paradise on earth" in the world. It was elected as the first batch of China's key national 5A-level scenic spot opened to the public and it is one of Must-visit China Attractions. With its accumulation of years of history, its unique southern charm and a large number of outstanding cultural landscape help itself to be selected into world cultural heritage list, and it is the only China's world cultural heritage in the class of lakes. The Santanyinyue landscape printed on the back of the paper currency for CNY 1 yuan embodies a special status of the West Lake among numerous China's scenic spots.

The West Lake is a like a shining pearl inlaid on the vast land of China, reputed for beautiful scenery, a multitude of historical sites, brilliant cultural relics, and a profusion of native products. Legend has it that the West Lake was a heavenly jewel fallen to earth. Pragmatists insist that it is a mere lagoon on Hangzhou's western fringe. In any case, West Lake has inspired painters for centuries.

Historical Evaluation of Hangzhou West Lake

An old Chinese saying goes, 'There is heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below'. Centuries later, Marco Polo called Hangzhou the most enchanting city in the entire world. This is most evident in the West Lake area, the effective, if not geographic, center of Hangzhou.

Hills embrace the lake on three sides; the city proper lies to the east. Ancient Chinese people praised the West Lake area as a land of intoxicating beauty. Su Shi, a poet from the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD), likened the lake to Xizi, a Chinese Cleopatra, for its allure.

In ancient times, this place had been a shallow sea gulf before it evolved into a residual lake. The Baidi and Sudi causeways provide access to many parts of the lake. Most of the best known tourist sites lie around and within the lake. With a circumference of 15km, the lake area itself is easy for the visitor to negotiate.

Hangzhou West Lake in Autumn
Hangzhou West Lake in Autumn

Top Ten Scenes of West Lake

Each view in West Lake has its own feature, when combining together, they also can be on behalf of the essence of the beauty of ancient West Lake. Ten Views of the West Lake were formed in the Southern Song Dynasty, and basically are distributed around the West Lake, some are located on the lake, they are:

【Autumn Moon over the Peaceful Lake - Chinese: 平湖秋月】
Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake is one of the top ten views of the West Lake in Hangzhou. It is located in the western end of Baiti Causeway, near to the Isolated Hill. It is closed to the outer West Lake. At the edge of the lake, overlooking the Moon on high site can make you acquire the sense of quiet in the West Lake, washing irritable mood. It cover an area of over 6000 square meters.

Why Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake is famous
There is a scientific reason for why Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake is famous. Hangzhou is located in the subtropical area. According to the earth and the sun operating laws, four seasons in this city is distinct clearly; according to the relation of the earth and the moon, chord circle hook does have a pattern. in autumn, the moon from is closer to the northern hemisphere in earth. Because of Hangzhou's geographical location, the angle between the moon and the earth does not exceed 60 degrees. What’s more, the weather is mainly sunny in autumn evening in Hangzhou and the temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius. The relative humidity is 80%, wind speed three meters to four meters per second. There are little particulates in the air. The pleasant climate at this time makes the moon seem to be particularly large, bright and especially round.

【Evening Bell at Nanping Hill - Chinese: 南屏晚钟】
Located on the south side of West Lake, Evening Bell at Nanping Hill is one of top ten views of the west lake with the longest history. It is a mixture of cultural and natural views. It refers to the evening bells in Jingci Temple at Nanping Hill in Hangzhou. Due to the caves at Nanping Hill, when the sun is down and the bell rings, the sound of the bell will echoes in the valley for a long time. This is why this place is so famous. In recent years, when the New Year comes, foreign guests, overseas Chinese and native residents in Hangzhou gather at the bell towel in Jingci Temple to strike the huge bell for New Year blessings.

The Scene of Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill is mainly consisted of two parts: Nanping Hill Scenic Area and Jingci Temple. The two portions are specially and vividly characterized of its beautiful of natural scene and religion culture.

【Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer - Chinese: 曲院风荷】
Located in the west side of West Lake, Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (Qufeng Heyuan) is famous for the beautiful scenery in summer. It ranks second among top ten views of the West Lake in Hangzhou. The total area of this place is 126,500 square meters, including a construction area of 2.68 billion square meters. This place mainly includes two parts: the lotus lake and the crooked courtyard. The crooked courtyard is located in site where Jinsha Stream (largest natural water source in West Lake) flows into West Lake, near to the Hongchun Bridge in Hongyin Road. It used to be a wine shop in South Song Dynasty. Near the banks of West Lake grows lotus. When summer comes, the flavor of the lotus and the perfume of the wine together can be smelled everywhere.

【Melting Snow at Broken Bridge- Chinese:  断桥残雪】
It is famous for the looming view of the bridge seen from the distance when there is winter snow. The broken bridge is located in the eastern end of Baidi in the West Lake in Hangzhou, backed Baoshi Mountain, facing the city of Hangzhou. It is the watershed point of outer West Lake and and inner West Lake.

With a high location and broader vision, Melting Snow at Broken Bridge is the best place to appreciate the snow scenery in winter. When it snows, standing on the hill south and overlooking southwards, the West Lake is Clad in silvery white. The stone arch bridge without shelter reveals it mottled face when ice and snow melt in the sun. However, both ends of the bridge are still under snow cover. The bridge is vaguely seen and snow in the culverts is light, which is contrasted to the gray bridge. that seems to break the non-breaking, it is so called broken bridge.

【Orioles Singing in the Willows - Chinese: 柳浪闻莺】
Orioles Singing in the Willows ranks fifth among the top ten views of the West Lake. It is located in the eastern side of West Lake in Hangzhou Covering an area of over 20 square meters, it is near the city by the lake, being a large integrated garden with ornamental and entertainment functions. The attraction, Orioles Singing in the willows, is divided into Friendship, Wen Ying, Ju Jing, South Park four parts. The willows grow together with purple nanmu, cedar, magnolia, plum and other different trees and flowers. In Southern Song Dynasty, it is the largest imperial garden, called Ju Jing Garden. At that time there was a Huifang Hall and three houses and nine pavilions, and Liu Lang Bridge and Bachelor Bridge. It was named Orioles Singing in the Willows for oriole flying and crowing in the willows. When the spring comes, thousands of willows waving in the breeze like a waves in the sea; in shade depths, from time to time come the sound of orioles.

【Spring Dawn at Su Causeway - Chinese: 苏提春晓】
Spring Dawn at Su Causeway ranks first among ten views of the West Lake in Hangzhou. It is a north-south tree-lined embankment running through the West Lake scenic area. The embankment is south to the foothills of Nanping Mount and north to the Xixia Ridge. The embankment is 300 kilometers long and 36 meters wide. It is built by Su Dongpo, who is a writer and calligrapher in Northern Song Dynasty. In 1089, Su used the mud of the West Lake to build the embankment when he was dredging the lake. There are six stone arch bridges along the embankment, from south to north are the Central Wave Bridge (Yangbo Bridge), Suo Lan Bridge, Wang Shan Bridge, Ya Ti bridge, Dongpu Bridge, Kua Hong Bridge. Su Causeway is named in honor of Su Dongpo, also known as Su Gong Causeway. In the south end of the causeway lies a Su Dongpo Memorial, which shows the life of Su Dongpo and his poems.

Su Causeway provides visitors with changing touring lines which can take a leisure stroll with impressing view. Walking in the embankment or bridge, scenic view expands like a picture with kinds of style and fancy taste.

【Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor - Chinese: 花港观鱼】
Located in the southwest of the West Lake, Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor features flowers, harbor and fishes. There are thousands of red carps in the fishpond here. And feeding red carp is a pleasure for native residents.

Flower Harbor covers an area of twenty hectares and the whole garden is divided into five parts: red carps pond, peony garden, flower harbor, large lawn and jungle. Red carp pond is located in south central park it is the center of the tour area in the whole garden. The shore of the pond is naturally tortuous. There are small bridges above the water for visitors to have close look at the red carps. When the visitors stand on the bridge, thousands of red carp will swim towards to the visitors, gaming and dancing. Peony garden is in the center of Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor. Here grows a large number of peonies, which make it a traditional public leisure venue in Hangzhou.

【Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset - Chinese: 雷峰夕照】
This scene is known for the sunset glowing shining on Leifeng Pagoda, which looks like Buddha's light shining.

【Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds - Chinese: 双峰插云】
The two peaks are South High Peak and North High Peak. This scene is to describe the beautiful landscape reaching high into the air in a far.

Best Ways to Explore the Beauty of West Lake

【See the show Impression of West Lake】
Venue: West Lake
First show: 19:45-21:00 (every day)
Second show: 21:15-22:30 (every Thu-Sat)
Summary: It is a large-scale and the first-rate international art performance on the real landscape. It is directed by Zhang Yimou and other famous directors.

The glorious show named Impression of West Lake is an optional entertainment for your Hangzhou night.

Staged on the wavy, mellow and changing West Lake, the performance appears vivid and natural. Contented with the myths and legends of the West Lake, the show leads you to a sweet thousand-year dream.

The special concealable auditorium provides a wide and bird’s-eye view. Each seat is a wonderful place to enjoy the panoramic view of the West Lake even without watching the show. The pioneering individualized sound system, combined with the sound-oriented system, is surely to offer a surprising musical enjoyment.

【Take a Seat in Round-the-Lake Sightseeing Golf Cart】
Venue: West Lake
Time: 8:00 – 17:00
Summary: It is very fast, convenient and easy to travel around the West Lake on the cart. Anywhere around the lake, at a wave of your hands, you can get on.

【Appreciate Lotus Flowers in Summer Days】
Venue: West Lake
Summary: The scene of lotus flowers covering the West Lake in summer is a splendid and charming for locals as well as travelers. In Hangzhou, the hottest season will be the best time to appreciate lotus flowers.

A sentence in Chinese poem just describes a fantastic picture – the tender sunlight reflected by the West Lake makes lotus flowers extremely bright-colored.

During the sunny day, you can pick a lotus leaf to get rid of the sunburn. While during the drizzle day, you can listen to the rhythm that raindrop beat leaves gently. And you will find a clean and charming picture after this rainy day, leaves are greener and flowers are brighter with a lucid West Lake.

【Take a Cruise Boat to have a deep vision of the lake】
The lake is quite large. Taking a cruise boat would be a good way to get more close to the lake. If you choose to do sightseeing in West Lake area by boat, you can not only have a deeper view of the lake area, you can also board on islets like Xiao Ying Zhou Islet, Hu Xin Ting Islet and some other sites in the lake only reached by boat. You can read more info about this at Take a Cruise in West Lake

Cruise and Sunset at Hangzhou West Lake
Cruise and Sunset at Hangzhou West Lake

How to Get There

West Lake is sited in center area of Hangzhou. It is easily reached by taxi or public buses.