China Travel Guide
Renowned in medieval China as an earthly paradise, Hangzhou became the splendid capital of the Southern Song dynasty between 1138 and 1279. Later, when the conquering Mongols chose what is now Beijing as their new capital, Hangzhou continued to be a thriving commercial city. Its glories were extolled by Marco Polo, who allegedly visited Hangzhou at the height of its prosperity and described it as "the City of Heaven, the most magnificent in all the world." Although most of the old buildings were destroyed in the Taiping Rebellion, the attractive West Lake and its surrounding area are still worth visiting.
- 75 miles (120 km) SW of Shanghai
- Train Station, East Train Station
- East Bus Station, North Bus Station, West Bus Station, CAAC (buses to airport)
- 0571 5672 3456
Hangzhou city center
- Hu Qingyu Tang Museum of Chinese Medicine (4)
- Huanglong Dong Park & Qixia Shan (3)
- Impression West Lake (2)
- Lingyin Si (8)
- Longjing Village (7)
- Six Harmonies Pagoda (9)
- Tea Museum (6)
- West Lake (5)
- Yue Fei Mu (1)
(Tomb of Yue Fei)
Yue Fei Mu
- Bei Shan Rd.
- 0571 8796 6653
- 7:30am–5:30pm daily
Just north of the West Lake lies the tomb of the Song general, Yue Fei, a Chinese hero revered for his patriotism. His campaigns against the invading Jin were so successful that his overlords began to worry that he might turn against them. He was falsely charged with sedition and executed, only to become a martyr.
Baopu Daoist Temple
The Yue Fei Temple is a late 19th-century construction, and the tomb lies beside it. The central tumulus belongs to Yue Fei, while the smaller one is his son’s, who was also executed. The kneeling figures in iron represent his tormentors – the prime minister, his wife, a jealous general, and the prison governor. It was customary to spit on them, but this is no longer encouraged.
Impression West Lake
Every evening, on the lake in front of Yue Fei Mu Temple, is a water, light, and animation show. It was created by the famous Chinese director Zang Yimou, who produced the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony, and has music by Zhang Liangying.
Huanglong Dong Park & Qixia Shan
Huanglong Dong Park, nestling in the hills, is very attractive with its teahouses, ponds, and flowers, and a pavilion where musicians perform traditional music in summer. To the east is Baoshu Ta, a 20th-century rebuild of a Song-era pagoda. Looming close by is Qixia Shan (Lingering Clouds Mountain), with the Baopu Daoist Compound located halfway up its slopes. This active temple has services on most days, making it an interesting stopover.
Museum of Chinese Medicine
Hu Qingyu Tang Museum of Chinese Medicine
* 95 Dajing Xiang
* 0571 8702 7507
* 8:30am–5pm daily
This interesting museum is housed in a beautiful old apothecary’s shop. It was established by the merchant Hu Xueyan during the Qing dynasty and traces the history of traditional Chinese medicine, which goes back thousands of years. It is still an active dispensary and pharmacy.
- 1 Fayun Long, Lingyin Rd.
- 0571 8796 8665
- 7am–5pm daily
The hill area known as Feilai Feng (The Peak that Flew Here) is home to some of the city’s main sights, including Lingyin Si. Founded in AD 326, this temple once housed 3,000 monks who worshiped in more than 70 halls. Though now much reduced in size, it is still one of China’s largest temples. It was damaged in the 19th-century Taiping Rebellion, and then again by fire in the 20th century. It is said to owe its survival to Zhou Enlai (see Nanchang), who prevented its destruction during the Cultural Revolution. Still, some parts of the temple are ancient, such as the stone pagodas on either side of the entrance hall, which date from AD 969. Behind this hall is the Great Buddha Hall, with an impressive 66-ft (20-m) statue of the Buddha carved in 1956 from camphor wood.
The Ligong Pagoda at the entrance was built in honor of the Indian monk, Hui Li, who gave the mountain its eccentric name. Hui Li thought it was the spitting image of a hill in India and asked whether it had flown here. Feilai Feng is known for the dozens of Buddhist sculptures carved into the rock, many dating from the 10th century.
Six Harmonies Pagoda
Standing beside the railway bridge on the northern shore of the Qiantang River, Liuhe Ta is all that is left of an octagonal temple first built in AD 970 to placate the tidal bore, a massive wall of water that rushes upstream during high tide. Over 197-ft (60-m) high, it served as a lighthouse up until the Ming dynasty.