Hangzhou

Hangzhou’s beautiful scenery has made it the wedding photo capital of China. The capital of Zhejiang Province, and located 45 minutes by high speed train from Shanghai, Hangzhou is centered around the famous West Lake (Xi Hu), which has been immortalized by countless Chinese poets and artists.  Hangzhou was capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276. During this time the city’s population is estimated to have been as high as one million, making it the largest city in the world. Even the great Marco Polo claimed to have passed through, describing Hangzhou as “beyond dispute the finest and noblest city in the world“. Hangzhou has a subtropical monsoon-type climate with four distinct seasons, although it’s possible to visit all year round.

Sightseeing

West Lake of XiHu (西湖) is undoubtedly Hangzhou’s most famous feature, noted for its scenic beauty that blends naturally with many famous historical and cultural sites. Bordering West Lake are a variety of gardens and cultural sites – Solitary Hill, the Mausoleum of General Yue Fei, the Six Harmonies Pagoda and the Ling Yin Temple are probably the most frequently visited attractions. If the weather is good an early ride around West Lake is recommended, with mist rising from the water and locals taking their early morning exercise. Bikes can be hired from many hotels and shops around the lake’s edge. For those who prefer to walk a circuit of West Lake takes about 5 hours – the lake is not that big and there are two causeways across it if you get tired. It’s also possible to hire small boats (RMB 80 per hour with captain). Due to its historical and cultural significance, West Lake was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.

Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔) 15 Nanshan Road(杭州市南山路15号) is an octagonal 5-storied wood-and-brick pagoda located on Sunset Hill south of West Lake. It’s the landmark of Hangzhou which is of great historical and cultural importance, and noted as one of Ten Scenes of West Lake (西湖十景), as well as has a deep connection with popular legends. The original pagoda was erected in 975 AD during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.  During the Ming Dynasty when Japanese pirates invaded Hangzhou, they set the whole pagoda on fire for suspecting a Chinese army of having hidden in it. The fire destroyed the pagoda’s wooden elements, leaving only the brick skeleton. Later, superstitious people believed that the bricks of this time-honored pagoda had special magic which could prevent diseases. And they took bricks from its lower storeys as a talisman which weakened the pagoda, and led to its collapse in 1924. However, due to its great importance, it was rebuilt in 2002 according to original style and meanwhile preserved its remains at the base of the new Leifeng Pagoda.

Impression West Lake Show is a large-scale performance in the Yuehu Lake Scenic Area. It focuses on the ancient folklore between Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen, and the sad love storey between Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. It consists of five acts: encounter, falling in love, farewell, memory, and impression. The dance, music, and lighting all contribute to the performance. The first performance lasts from 19:15 to 20:15, while the second one lasts from 20:45 to 21:45. Ticket prices range from ~RMB 260 to ~RMB 600

Wulin Square (武林广场) Tiyuchang Road (杭州市体育场路) is located to the north of the West Lake, right in front of Hangzhou Grand Theatre (杭州剧院). It’s a very prosperous square with many high buildings and shopping malls standing around, like Hangzhou Tower (杭州大厦),  Zhejiang Exhibition Hall (浙江展览馆) and the Hangzhou Department store (杭州市百货大楼).  The Piano Stairs were completed in October, 2012. Every step of the stairs represents a note. When you are walking on them, the stairs will play “your song”.

The historic Hefang Old Street (河坊街) Hefang Street, Shangcheng District, Hangzhou (杭州市上城区河坊街), located at the foot of Wu Hill and quite close to the West Lake. is one of the best preserved urban areas of ancient Hangzhou. Hangzhou was China’s capital during the Southern Song Dynasty more than 800 years ago, and Hangzhou’s urban Hefang Street has many shops, restaurants and taverns that represent its place in history. Hefang Street has stood the test of time, surviving through the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Today it is still a prosperous marketplace. Most of the businesses and shops in Hefang Street are over 100 years old. Hefang Street wasn’t only the heart of old Hangzhou but was also the commercial center in ancient China. Walking along Hefang Street, you can enjoy shopping and snacking. Known also as the Snack Street for the diverse food it served, Hefang Street clearly concentrates on cuisine from all around the country, while simultaneously highlighting local flavors. Hefang Old Street also displays a variety of unique Chinese crafts, such as land-blown sugar candy, paper-cutting, and hand-made dough figurines. You’ll also find a large variety of local snacks, such as roasted walnuts and “dragon-whisker” candy. The street is full of art hawkers, candy sculptors, pillow shops, caricaturists, old-fashioned movie players, storytellers, bonsai shops, teahouses, and an array of small eateries, making Hefang Street come alive with charm and whimsy.

Qiaoxi Historic Block (桥西直街) is located west of the old Gongchen Bridge, along the bank of the Grand Canal is this grand residential block featuring designs from the Ming and Qing dynasties.  Restored by the government in 2008 it has since been developed to include a number of new attractions. Boasting a range of services such as Chinese medicine culture, ceramic making and is also home to a number of restaurants, cafes, bars, gift shops and museums.  Once old and frayed this residential block is now buzzing with charm and beauty but still maintains its sense of tranquility and style.  Walk along any one of the cobbled streets that make up this block and you will discover a world of culture.

Xiaohe Historical Street (小河直街) Gongshu (杭州市拱墅区) located at the intersection of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and the Yuhangtang River, Xiaohe Historical Street is one of the most notable pedestrian streets in Hangzhou, just as Hefang Street. Buildings here are mainly made of concrete on the first floor and wooden on the second.  Due to it favorable location, Xiaohe Historical Street experienced an economic boom during the late Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), and evolved into a bustling marketplace and a key wharf for barges traversing the waters of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. With the decline of the canal, the living condition for the residents along waterfront deteriorated accordingly.  To restore its former glory and to provide tourists an opportunity to experience the timeless charm along the Grand Canal, the Hangzhou Government embarked on a massive renovation project on the original site of Xiaohe Street in 2007. Nowadays, this street lined with warehouses, handicraft workshops, teahouses and restaurants.

Shopping

Shopping specialties include:

Bamboo Chopsticks, Silk Parasols, Green Tea, Brocade, Silk and Fans.

  • Hangzhou silk has a long history as more than 4,000 years, featuring gentle texture, gorgeous colors and wide varieties. The silk produced in Hangzhou has 14 varieties, including satin, spin, crepe, damask silk and silk fabric. The silk products include landscape painting, cushions for leaning on, curtain and clothing.
  • Xihu silk umbrella features bright color and exquisite appearance, with the “bone” is made of bamboo. It not only can be used as common umbrella for sunshade, but also can be used as ornament to decorate your house.
  • Hangzhou Longjing Tea (Dragon Well Tea) is famous for its unique green color, fragrant aroma, sweet taste and flat appearance, and it is usually regarded as a health elixir, which is quite popular throughout China.
  • Wangxingji Paper Fan (王星记扇子) The paper fans produced in Hangzhou are famous in China since ancient times. The most famous three local products in Hangzhou are paper fan, silk and Longjing tea. Wangxingji fan is the best known brand of fan in Hangzhou. The history of the factory can go back to 1875, and in that time, it was regarded as the tribute for imperial household.

Cuisine

Hangzhou’s cuisine is noted for its intricate preparation and blend of flavors with local specialities containing a lot of pork and seafood – highlights include dongpo rou, an extremely fatty chunk of pork in a syrupy sauce, and cuyu, which is fish from West Lake in a sweet and sour sauce, and fried shrimp with Longjing tea, but the most famous is likely Beggar’s Chicken (叫花童鸡).  A starving beggar in Hangzhou during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is said to have stolen a chicken and was hotly pursued by its owner. In his haste he wrapped it with a lotus leaf and buried the chicken in mud near a riverbank to hide it. Later that night he returned and retrieved the chicken, its feathers covered in mud.  He started a fire to cook the chicken. But not having any utensils he placed the entire chicken directly into the fire. A tight clay crust was formed as the chicken cooked, and when the crust was cracked open the feathers came right off the chicken exposing juicy tender meat and emitting an incredible aroma.  The roasted chicken was so delicious, he decided to start selling his creation. Unbeknownst to him he had just invented one of China’s greatest culinary traditions.