ABOUT WEST LAKE
West Lake (Chinese: 西湖, Xī Hú) is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province in eastern China. It is divided into five sections by three causeways. There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake.
West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics, and it has also been among the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden designers. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, described as having “influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries” and reflecting “an idealized fusion between humans and nature.”
HISTORY & FACTS
West Lake has a history almost as old as Hangzhou itself and the original West Lake formed over 2000 years ago with the sedimentation of the Qiantang River. During China’s famed Tang Dynasty (618-907), the lake was nearly double its current size. Around the middle of the Tang Dynasty, the lake had dried up due to mismanagement so a new dyke and dam system was built, causeways were constructed and the lake extensively developed.
Over the last thousand or so years the West Lake has been a major tourist attraction and cultural drawcard with continuous development and maintenance such as dredging and the creation of islands. The Three Pools Mirroring the Moon is the lake’s largest island and Mid-Lake Pavilion is the oldest island.
West Lake is surrounded on three sides by mountains and hills and has a surface area of around 6 square kilometers. The length or circumference of the West Lake is roughly 15 kilometers, the average water depth is around 0.8 meters and the lake itself can hold up to 14,290,000 cubic meters of water. West Lake is so big it even has its own dry dock for the maintenance and repair of boats.
Even the lake itself has its own creation legend. The legend of the creation of West Lake has been retold and adapted through countless centuries. It is said that untold millennia ago the Jade Dragon, and Gold Phoenix had discovered a piece of pure white jade on the fairyland along the Silver River in the heaven. After many years of continual laboring, they transformed it into a perfect jade ball. Anywhere the jade ball shined, green trees and blooming flowers would sprout up. When the news of this precious treasure reached the ears of the Heavenly Empress’s ear, she desired to possess it. She ordered her generals to acquire the jade ball for her. When the Jade Dragon and Gold Phoenix demanded the ball back, a huge battle ensued. During the battle the jade ball was dropped to the earth, where it turned into the crystal clear West Lake and Phoenix Mountain. Ever since the battle, Phoenix Mountain has kept a watch over the beautiful jade ball.
TEN SCENES OF WEST LAKE
Traditionally, there are ten best-known scenic spots on the West Lake, each remembered by a four-character epithet. Collectively, they are known as the “Ten Scenes of West Lake” (10 Scenic Spots in West Lake 西湖十景). Each is marked by a stele with an epithet written in the calligraphy of the Qianlong Emperor
- Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
- Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷)
- Moon Over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月)
- Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (斷橋殘雪)
- Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
- Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
- Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
- Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
- Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
- Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚鐘)