West Lake is one of the most famous lakes in all of China. It can be found in Hangzhou, close to China’s east coast. It’s a vast, freshwater lake that was deemed a World UNESCO heritage site in 2011. West Lake sees thousands of visitors each year, and has inspired garden design all over the country. If you’re visiting Hangzhou, you just can’t miss this famous lake.
Interesting Facts About West Lake
- This is the most popular attraction in Hangzhou.
- The lake is located right in the middle of the city.
- It is the only Heritage lake site in all of China.
- West Lake has inspired garden designs around China as well as in Japan and South Korea.
- It has a perimeter of 15km and covers 6.39km2 of area.
- Divided by three causeways, there are five distinct sections of West Lake.
- Some of its most famous features are the artificial islands, pagodas, temples, and gardens.
- Chinese poets and artists have been using the lake as inspiration for centuries.
- There are 10 distinct scenes that are recognized around West Lake. These include: Three Ponds Mirroring The Moon, Two Peaks Piercing The Clouds, Evening Bell Ringing at The Nanping Hill, Leifeng Pagoda in The Sunset, Orioles Singing in The Willows, Fish Viewing at The Flower Pond, Moon Over The Peaceful Lake in Autumn, Lingering Snow Over The Broken Bridge in Winter, Lotus Swaying in The Breeze, Dawn at The Su Causeway in Spring.
History Of West Lake
Wu Forest River was the first recorded name of West Lake. However, many names followed this before West Lake finally became permanent.
During the Qin Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago, West Lake was still a component of the Qiantang River. Due to soil sedimentation, and the movement of surrounding mountains, the lake was eventually formed.
In the Sui Dynasty, the Jiangnan Canal was constructed. This allowed China’s five rivers to become connected and opened up Hangzhou as a hub. The regional economy saw a huge boom and tourism in Hangzhou started to flourish.
When the Tang Dynasty came around, West Lake was around 10.8 square kilometers. There wasn’t much infrastructure around the lake so it would often flood and then dry out during heavy rains. When Li Mi became governor of Hangzhou, he had wells built around the lake to bring water into the city.
A few years later, a new governor was appointed, Bai Juyi, who helped the local farmers who were suffering from drought by rebuilding the lake’s dyke. This helped the farmers prosper, which in turn, helped the local economy. Bai Juyi loved the lake so much that he ordered a causeway to built so that he could walk across it.
It was during the Southern Song Dynasty and Wuyue Kingdom that West Lake was primarily developed. This time period was referred to as the Ten Kingdoms and Five Dynasties period. Hangzhou became the capital and it was a hub for local and foreign trading with South Korea and Japan.
The leaders during this period were very involved in Buddhism, and built many of the pagodas and temples that make the lake so beautiful today. From this time on, the lake was continually built up by various emperors and became increasingly popular with tourists.
Over the years it has been built up, improved, made more efficient and effective, and protected by the government.
Culture Of West Lake
There’s no shortage of attractions around West Lake and the surrounding area. You’ll definitely be busy sightseeing, but if you need a place to start, here’s the top things to check out:
The Flower Pond at The End of Su Causeway: This is one of the most famous sites around West Lake. Spring is the best time to visit as its full of flowers in bloom. The top activity here is feeding the giant goldfish that gather in the pond.
Crooked Courtyard: If you visit this courtyard in the summertime you’ll be met with hundreds of lotus. There are all different kinds and they’ll be in full bloom. The Crooked Courtyard can be found on West Lake’s western shore.
Three Pools Mirroring The Moon: This is a classic West Lake site and probably one of the most famous. It’s so iconic that its scenery is used on the back of the one yuan bank note. It’s during Mid-Autumn Festival that the candles inside the pagodas here are lit. The light from the three pagodas and the full moon display the reflections on the water. Hence the name.
The Cycling Trails: West Lake is so big that biking is actually the best way to get around it. Bai Causeway and Su Causeway are the best trails for cycling the lake. These paths will allow you to see most of West Lake’s top sites.
The Boat Cruises: Taking a boat cruise will allow you to visit the man-made islands on West Lake. You can opt for a self-rowing boat, large painted boat, or a small rowing boat. Boat cruises are available both at night and during the day so that you can get the best views of the lake.
Impression West Lake Performance: This performance takes place in the evening and is only available outdoors. The show uses lights, music, and professional dancers to tell a beautiful love story. There are five acts and the show can be seen from March through December.
Tips For Visiting West Lake
- Visiting during the spring will allow you to see the peach blossoms in bloom. This is especially beautiful along Su Causeway.
- Visit during the summer if you want to see the lotus flowers in bloom.
- Visit during autumn if you want incredible weather and great opportunities to drink the local tea.
- Spend multiple nights in the area as there is a lot to see and do.
- Wear sturdy walking shoes and bring appropriate clothes for the weather as you’ll spend plenty of time outdoors.
- Make sure to see the shows and the ten famous West Lake attractions.