Mon, April 12, 2010
Lifestyle > Travel

Slow down and relax in Hangzhou

2010-04-12 08:48:36 GMT2010-04-12 16:48:36 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Senior citizens enjoy tea under a maple tree.

Foreign visitors take a photo beside lotus in West Lake.

Local young women perform a tea ceremony in front of the tea park of Longjing, one of the top teas in China.

Hangzhou, a historic Chinese city in Zhejiang province, hopes to attract visitors during the busy Shanghai Expo.

Visitors will flock to Shanghai for the Expo in May and Hangzhou, 200 km or 1.5 hours by car from Shanghai, is an ideal choice for an out of town visit.

The prosperity of Hangzhou can be dated back to as early as the Song Dynasty (1127-1279), when it was a capital city.

The city has been mentioned in famous Chinese poems. One of the most well-known is by Su Shi, who wrote: "Up above there is heaven, down below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou", implying that the city is heaven on earth.

Nowadays, due to its historic sites, economic development, and comfortable surroundings, Hangzhou has received awards for the quality of life enjoyed in the city.

Guests to the city can walk around the West Lake, taste local snacks, and relax in teahouses. But what makes it an attractive place for many people is the slow pace of life.

Hangzhou has topped a list of the 10 happiest cities in China for six years.

Highlights

Hangzhou is one the eight old Chinese capital cities. Popular historic tales include the love story between a white snake and a human intellectual, Xu Xian, and the so-called oriental Romeo and Juliet, where the lovers Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai became butterflies after they died for love.

Hangzhou is famous for its silk, which has been produced there for millennia. It is also the birthplace of Longjing Tea, the most distinguished tea in China.

The city also offers good food and fine clothes.

In the city center there is the West Lake. The poet Su Shi once wrote: "West Lake may be compared to a fine lady, whether she is richly adorned or plainly dressed."

By the West Lake there is a Buddhist monastery built in 326 AD. Its Sakyamuni statue covered with gold foil stands 24.8 meters high and is the highest wooden Buddhist statue in China.

Leifeng Tower is also worth seeing. Legend has it that the tower was built to lock up the white snake that fell in love with the intellectual, Xu Xian. The tower also houses collections of historic relics such as Buddhist artifacts.

The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal has a history of over 1,400 years. Visitors can explore the streets bordering the canal. There is also an oriental gondola so people can enjoy a trip on the water.

History

Zhongshan Road used to be the royal pass of the former Song Dynasty emperors.

The nearby Song City is the biggest visitor park in China. Inside, there are traditional Song Dynasty style buildings, as well as markets built according to historic records of that time.

An archaeological site was discovered 20 km from the town center in 1936 and a museum was established to showcase around 400 historic items, which were unearthed.

Hangzhou has a long history of Chinese traditional medicine. The Huyuqing medicine house, founded by the Chinese businessman Hu Xueyan in the late Qing Dynasty (1624-1911), has an elegant courtyard.

In recent years, in reaction to demand, services like massage and foot bathing, popular among young people, have emerged.

Rural escape

Visitors who wish to get away from the city can visit the nearby rural areas.

Many people flock to the Qiantang River to watch the high tide, during the eighth month of the lunar year.

The tide rolls in, in waves as high as a wall and there is a special tide-watching pavilion to enjoy this natural wonder.

Visitors can also travel to the Tianmu Moutain, the Fuchun River, the Xin'an River, or Qiandao Lake, which are all natural sites with stunning scenery. There are also old towns on the Fuyang Mountain, where culture from the period of Sun Quan (one of the three emperors in the Three-kingdom period) can be seen.

In addition there is the Qiandao Lake, which has 1,078 islands.

Forest wetlands and historic villages surround the city and enable visitors from the city to enjoy some fresh air and reconnect with nature.

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