West Lake — Cultural Landscape with Historic and Aesthetic Values

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, West Lake is a perfect combination of beautiful natural views and human designs.


Historic Bridge on West Lake, Photo by Zuiaihangzhou.

Why West Lake is important in Chinese culture?


  • Qin Shi Huang (259 BC — 210 BC) had 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;

  • West Lake is in city 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 had eulogized the West Lake in their works;


Memorial Temple of Hero Yu Qian in West Lake of Hangzhou

  • Many famous folklores, such as White Snake, took place in West Lake;

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

Sunrise of Causeway on West Lake, Photo by Zuiaihangzhou.

What is the most famous 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 to two beautiful women.  


They were powerful and kind-hearted and used their magics 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, Photo by C.WL.

They got married and managed a clinic near West 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 Tower, when the Cyan Snake escaped and kept practicing in deep mountains, hoping to save her sister in the future. 

Leifeng Tower on West Lake, Photo by Shiguangmingji.

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


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


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

Image of Lady White Snake in Fantasy Movie "White Snake"

Important Data of West Lake.


  • West Lake is 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 of the West Lake 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, Photo by Changgepaodiaowang.

What are the important cultural sites of West Lake?


Su Causeway


Su Causeway or Sudi was constructed in 1089 to dredge the West Lake by the great scholar, poet, painter, 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 

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 on the West Lake. 


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

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

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

One of the Three Ancient Stone Towers on West Lake

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, Photo from Official Site of West Lake 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, 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, 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, Photo by CJStin.

What are impressive natural scenic views of West Lake?


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

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

Nightview of West Lake, Photo from Official Site of West Lake Scenic Area.

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

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