Hangzhou is the capital city of and largest city in the Zhejiang Province, Eastern China, with 3.56 million people living in its six urban core districts. Lying on the Hangzhou Bay, just southwest of Shanghai, Hangzhou has great economic power. It has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities of China since Qin Dynasty, due in part to its beautiful natural scenery. Hangzhou is at the southern end of China’s Grand Canal which extends to Beijing. The city first appeared in written records as Yuhang, meaning ‘Yu’s Ferry’, and was incorporated into the Chinese empire as a part of the Kuaiji Commandery during the Qin Dynasty. In 589 CE the city was renamed Hangzhou, and a city wall was constructed two years later. In 923 CE Wuyue Kingdom was founded, and for the first time Hangzhou had become a capital of a regime. Hangzhou was also the centre of politics, the economy and culture in Southern Song. It also gives Hangzhou the prestigious status of being one of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China. We cannot talk about Hangzhou without mentioning West Lake, a freshwater lake located in the historic area of Hangzhou. The lake is divided by the Bai Causeway, Su Causeway and Yang Gong Causeway, which made significant contributions to Hangzhou’s prosperity. Marco Polo once came to Hangzhou and famously praised it as city of heaven. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, and was described as “an idealized fusion between humans and nature.” Almost all of the natural parks and museums are free to visitors from all over the world.

The West Lake

It was a lazy, breezy autumn afternoon. The blue flagstones were still a little wet after the light rain at noon. The smell of perfume hung in the air: osmanthus was blossoming. Hangzhou, the great city, was like a young graceful lady. A thin layer of fog penetrated above the West Lake, as if the elegant lady was wearing a veil. Small boats scattered on the lake and dangled gleamingly in the fog. Sometimes, big dragon barges passed by before disappearing back into the mist again. On the horizon, continuous hills merged with the sky and the lake. Willows kissed the water. A few dilapidated lotuses were whispering about how they had just culminated the summer. Crewmen and teahouse clerks were calling for business. Hot spring water ran into a glass. The green tea leaves opened their curled bodies, stood up and danced in the water. Tiger-dug spring with Dragon Well tea: the most perfect match in Chinese tea history. I held the glass and tasted a drop. A fresh smell tinged my tongue, and the hot steam blurred my glasses. I just closed my eyes, to feel the vitality and the spring locked within. Pieces of sweet Osmanthus cakes, lost words, and fond memories were with me throughout the afternoon. Hangzhou is my beloved hometown. I sometimes think it is not blood in my vessels, but the water of the West Lake. I had been told countless fairy tales about the West Lake since I was a little girl. The most popular one was a love story between a mercy snake banshee and a human. The broken bridge on the West Lake was where they met, although it has not been broken down until now. I guess it is not the bridge, but the heart that broke, as the snake was not permitted to be with a real man. In the end she was locked under a tower, the Leifeng Pagoda, and separated from her husband forever. When I grew up, I had read many poems about Hangzhou and the West Lake: great poets have not only given us beautiful poetry, but have kept the West Lake a unique treasure that will continue inspire for generations. Night began to fall. Small boats were back and streetlights were on. Bars, cafes, clubs and teahouses began to get busy. As I was cycling around the lake, a musical performance began: the Impressive West Lake by Yimou Zhang. Music fountain performances were bravura and passionate as well.

Hangzhou: her beauty, elegance and vogue sweep the world from her feet, and The West Lake is a forgotten pearl from the heaven.