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Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province in east China, lies close to the mouth of the Qiantang River at the western end of the Gulf of Hangzhou. The city was a small fishing village until late in the sixth century, when the extension of the Grand Canal southward, which led to the development of a busy commercial center in town.

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Hangzhou underwent dramatic development when the Song Dynasty, pushed south by the conquering Jin, established its capital there. In a short space of 100 years, the population grew to almost a million and the town flourished as a major trading center. Although the city was partly destroyed by the invading Mongols in the late 13th-century, it appeared impressive to Marco Polo when the famous Italian traveler visited the city shortly afterwards. According to Marco Polo, Hangzhou was "without doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world. As for the West Lake, Marco Pole wrote: "On one side it skirts the city... and commands a distant view of all its grandeur and loveliness, its temples, monasteries, and gardens with their towering trees, running down to the water's edge. On the lake itself is the endless procession of barges thronged with pleasure-seekers... their minds and thoughts are intent upon nothing but bodily pleasures and the delights of society."
Today, the city remains renowned for its beauty, which some claim is unsurpassed in China. Many sections of the town have not changed for centuries, while the famous West Lake region retains its reputation as one of the most beautiful spots in China, with landscaped gardens on its banks, tree-shaded walks, and in the nearby hills, temples, pagodas, and monasteries.
West Lake

Hangzhou's fame rests mainly with the picturesque West Lake, so named because it is located in its western fringe. Covering about four square miles, West Lake is surrounded on three sides by rolling wood hills. At the center are three isles--Lesser Yingzhou, Mid-lake Pavilion and Ruangong Isle. Solitary Hill stands by itself on the northern lakeshore. It can be reached from the city by Bai Causeway, with Su Causeway bisects the lake from north to south. The blue, often rippling, water is dotted with elegant stone bridges and charming pavilions.

Lingyin Temple

It is believed that the temple was first established in 336 A.D. by a monk known as Hui Li. It was destroyed on a number of occasions, the last time during the Taiping Rebellion, and the latest rebuilding was in the early part of the 20th century. It was then restored in 1956.The temple sits at the foot of the Northern Peak in a wooded area, with a stream running in front of it. Some of the trees in front are believed to be more than 1,000 years old. The foremost temple houses a laughing Buddha carved in camphor wood and covered in gold with a carved gilt figure standing behind as a guard. Both figures are set under a two-eaves wooden canopy decorated in red and gold. Ornate lamps hang on either side.

Six Harmonies Pagoda

Six Harmonies Pagoda, highly erected by the Qiantang River and to the south of the West Lake, is a perfect symbol of brick-and-wood structure built in the ancient China. It is first built in 970 AD in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), in a way to press down the evil of the river tidal bore in Qiantang River. The name "six harmonies" comes from the six Buddhist ordinances, meaning "harmonies of the heaven, earth, east, west, south and north". The pagoda has fallen into ruins and gone through reconstruction many times. The original pagoda is nine storied with a light on the tip, serving as a navigation tower in the river. The present tower was the restoration in 1156. Seen from outside, the tower, with a height of 59.89 meters, have 13 stories while in fact only seven stories inside. The core of the present pagoda was built with the bricks left over from the Southern Song dynasty. The upturned wooden multi-eaves and wrapping structure were first built in the ending years of the Qing dynasty and have been refurbished many times. Commanding a spectacular view of the surging Qiantang River, the pagoda presents a quiet image of age-old majesty. Looking out from the top of the pagoda, sightseers can see as far as the misty horizon, enjoying an unforgettable, breathtaking experience.

China National Tea Museum

Located in the West Lake Dragon Well Tea planting area, China Tea Museum is a national specialized museum dedicated to tea culture. With a total construction area of 3500 square meters, five buildings, respectively for exhibition, tea drinking, tea performance, multiple functions and international exchanges, are sitting in the compound, connected by zigzagging paths, punctuated and colored by lawns and flowers and evergreen tea trees. No. 1 building is exhibition area, displaying systematically the history of tea, the varieties and distribution of tea in China, various tea utensils used in the old dynasties, tea-drinking habits in different parts of China with tea-related culture, and the scientific and technological aspects of tea-making and processing. No. 3 and 4 buildings serve as tea drinking and performance sections, which not only introduce you the way to drink tea in detail but also display various drinking rituals seen in different provinces and foreign countries. The museum has been a fine locale for a number of cultural activities on tea, including a series of international seminars on tea culture and exchange. Each year, countless tea professionals and aficionados from all over the world would meet here in the name of tea, drinking and talking about tea.

Qiantang Tidal Bore

If you are visiting in September during the autumn equinox, you may be able to see one of the most unusual sights in the world. A tidal bore gathers momentum in the Gulf of Hangzhou, surges into the mouth of the Qiangtang River, and races up the river, at a height of up to 30 ft. and a speed of more than 15m.p.h. In ancient times, governors of Hangzhou used to have arrows fired at the waves in an attempt to quell their destructive forces. Nowadays more effective methods are used.

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