West Lake — Cultural Landscape with Historic and Aesthetic Values

West Lake of Hangzhou

West Lake of Hangzhou, Photo by Dadaowuyan.

What Is West Lake?

 

West Lake or Xihu Hangzhou is a picturesque cultural landscape with invaluable historic and aesthetic significance that has been eulogized for thousands of years. 

 

As a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, it is a perfect combination of beautiful natural views and human designs.

 
Historic Bridge on West Lake

Historic Bridge on West Lake, Photo by Zuiaihangzhou.

Why is West Lake Important in Chinese Culture?

 

  • Qin Shi Huang (259 BC — 210 BC) visited there when the lake was firstly documented;

 

  • Emperor Yang Guang (569 — 618) of the Sui Dynasty established The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal that connected West Lake;

  • The lake is in the city of Hangzhou, the place that had been the capital of the Wuyue Kingdom (907 — 978) and Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279);

 

  • Many great poets of the Tang (618 907) and Song (960 1279) dynasties eulogized stunning views of the lake in their works;

 
Memorial Temple of Hero Yu Qian in West Lake of Hangzhou

Memorial Temple of Hero Yu Qian

  • Many famous folklores, such as White Snake, took place there;

  • Causeways and ancient buildings in the area are exceptional representatives of traditional Chinese aesthetics and culture.

Sunrise of Causeway on West Lake

Sunrise of Causeway, Photo by Zuiaihangzhou.

Folklore of West Lake — White Snake

In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279), there were two snakes, a white one and a cyan one, who have cultivated for over a thousand years, and incarnated into two beautiful women.  

 

They were powerful and kind-hearted and used their magic to cure many people. 

 

One day, the Lady White Snake and a young man named Xu Xian met in Broken Bridge (or Duanqiao) on the West Lake, and they fell in love with each other at the first sight. 

 
Broken Bridge or Duanqiao on West Lake

Broken Bridge or Duanqiao, Photo by C.WL.

They got married, managed a clinic near the lake, and lived a happy life together. 

 

Soon, a monk named Fa Hai knew about this marriage. As a moralist, he believed that a human and a snake shouldn't be together. 

 

After some intense fights, he suppressed White Snake under the Leifeng Pagoda, when the Cyan Snake escaped and kept practicing in deep mountains, hoping to save her sister in the future. 

Leifeng Pagoda on West Lake

Leifeng Pagoda under Sunset, Photo by Shiguangmingji.

In one version, Lady Cyan Snake got accepted by a powerful master and finally saved her sister out of the Pagoda. 

 

In another version, Lady White Snake and Xu Xian's son was an incarnation of a deity, who obtained impressive accomplishments and impressed Monk Fa Hai with his filial piety.

 

Either way, White Snake was released from the bottom of the Leifeng Pagoda, reunited with her family, and together with her sister, the Cyan Snake, became immortal in the end. 

Image of Lady White Snake from Film "White Snake"

Image of Lady White Snake from Film "White Snake" 

Important Data of West Lake.

 

  • It is located in Hangzhou of Zhejiang province;

 

  • The West Lake Scenic Area is over 49 square kilometers large, including a mountain, two pagodas, three islands, three causeways, and five lakes; 

 

  • The water area is 6.5 square kilometers large, with an average depth of 2.27 meters;

 

  • There are over 100 historic sites in the West Lake Scenic Area.

 
Beautiful Sunset View of West Lake of Hangzhou

Beautiful Sunset View, Photo by Changgepaodiaowang.

Important Cultural Sites

 

Su Causeway

 

Su Causeway or Sudi was constructed in 1089 to dredge the lake by the great scholar, poet, painter, and calligrapher Su Shi when he was the governor of Hangzhou city. 

 

Connected by 6 bridges, the Su Causeway today is 2797 meters long and around 30 to 40 meters wide.

 
Part of Su Causeway or Sudi of West Lake

Part of Su Causeway or Sudi

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon or Santan Yinyue

 

During Su Shi's term of office, he also built three stone pagodas to mark the bounds of the lake. 

 

The three pagodas would be ignited at night, and whose light on the lake looks like mirrorings of the moon.

Effect Picture of Three Pools Mirroring the Moon or Santan Yinyue

Effect Picture of Three Pools Mirroring the Moon or Santan Yinyue, Draw by Li Qianfang.

Today's pagodas were rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644).

One of the Three Ancient Stone Towers on West Lake

One of the Three Ancient Stone Pagodas

Jingci Temple

 

On Nanping Mountain on the bank of the West Lake locates the Jingci Temple, a famous Buddhist place that had been supported and visited by many emperors, such as Emperor Zhaogou, Kangxi, and Qianlong.  

 

Constructed in 954, Jingci Temple had been repaired, expanded, and rebuilt several times. 

Jingci Temple on Nanping Mountain

Jingci Temple on Nanping Mountain, Photo from Official Site of Xihu Scenic Area.

Baochu Pagoda

 

Firstly constructed around 948 to 960, Baochu Pagoda had been repaired 6 times in history. 

 

Today's Baochu was rebuilt in 1933, modeled on its original look. 

Baochu Pagoda on West Lake

Baochu Pagoda, Photo by Xinbao.

Lingyin Temple

 

Firstly constructed in 326, Lingyin Temple has been one of the holiest Buddhist places in this area. 

 

It has been restored and rebuilt several times throughout history and preserved many invaluable relics.

Hall of Lingyin Temple of West Lake

Hall of Lingyin Temple, Photo by Modu Laowu.

Yue Fei Temple

 

Yue Fei Temple, or Yuewang Miao, was constructed in 1221 to memorize hero Yue Fei who made great contributions to his country but was wrongly executed.  

Tomb of General Yue Fei in the Memorial Temple of West Lake Scenic Area

Tomb of General Yue Fei in the Memorial Temple, Photo by CJStin.

Impressive Natural Scenic Views

 
Gushan Mountain, Photo from Official Site of West Lake Scenic Area.

Gushan Mountain, Photo from Official Site of Xihu Scenic Area.

Lotus and Ancient Pavilion, Photo from Official Site of West Lake Scenic Area.

Lotus and Pavilion, Photo from Official Site of West Lake Hangzhou.

Nightview of West Lake

Nightview of West Lake, Photo from Official Site of West Lake China.

Longjing Tea Villiage Next to West Lake

Longjing Tea Villiage Next to the Lake, Photo from Official Site of Xihu Scenic Area.