Situated in the western portion of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, is Xixi National Park (also referred to as Xixi National Wetland Park). This unique urban wetland provides stunning natural beauty and an exceptionally preserved ecosystem. With an area comprised of more than 70 percent water, park has been nicknamed “wetland paradise”. Xixi National Park provides peace and serenity from the hustle and bustle of Hangzhou. It is a must-see attraction that cannot be missed.
- Xixi National Park covers an area of 2,800 acres (1,150 hectares), totaling 11.5 sq km.
- Opened in 2008, it is China’s first national wetland park.
- Xixi National Park is known as the “Three Xi’s” attractions of Hangzhou, including Xihu (West Lake) and Xiling Seal Art Society (one of China’s most important stone seal engraving organizations).
- Six rivers flow through the park, with numerous small tributaries and ponds branching off to create a unique landscape.
History Of Xixi National Park
It is believed that the Xixi wetland was formed four or five thousand years ago. The entire region was transformed into a large lake, what for flooding from neighbouring Tianmu Mountain, during the spring and summer months. Once the floodwater receded, the Xixi wetland was formed.
Xixi National Park has a history of over 1,800 years. The region was first discovered in the Han Dynasty. The original inhabitants of the wetland were farmers and fisherman. During his reign, Emperor Yuan of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317 AD to 420 AD) moved the capital from Luoyang, to Jiankang. It was during this period, that the wetland’s existence became widely known.
In the Song Dynasty from 960 to 1279, the region surrounding the wetland became developed, as Hangzhou grew in importance. Emperor Gaozong (1107 to 1187), the tenth ruler of the Song dynasty, was drawn to the tranquil, natural beauty of the area.
During the Ming dynasty (1368 AD to 1644 AD) and subsequent Qing dynasty (1644 AD to 1912 AD), the region flourished. Hangzhou experienced a new stage of both cultural and economic development. Fishing, and the agricultural production of bamboo and tea, made the area prosperous. The ancient art of sericulture (the production of silkworms and silk) also became prominent in the region.
However, by the Republican Period (1912 to 1949) the wetland began to decline. The increased development of several villages in the area, coupled with industrial enterprise, encroached on the Xixi wetland. By the 1950s, the area had gradually become even smaller.
Fortunately, the Hangzhou government implemented an intensive conservation project. Recognizing the ecological and cultural significance of the area, Xixi National Park was opened in 2008 to the public.
Culture Of Xixi National Park
For centuries, the wetland has been regarded as an ideal location for leisure, relaxation, and respite. The literal translation of XIxi means “west waterway”. Many scenic spots have been built since ancient times in this lush wetland. Xixi National Park is divided into three waterways, with specific ten attractions for visitors to enjoy.
The Waterways: These are known as Fu (meaning fortune), Lu (meaning prosperity), and Shou (meaning longevity). Stretching north to south through the park, the Fu waterway is 1.4 miles (2,300m) long 8 yards (7m) wide. There are six bridges with the Chinese character “Fu” located along its course.
Meandering throughout the centre of the park is the Lu waterway. At 1 mile (1,600m) long and 7m wide, it connects a continuing ecological research project that is occurring in the wetland.
The longest waterway is the Shou, totaling 2.2 miles (3,600m) and 5 yards (4.5m) wide. Like the Fu, it stretches from north to south.
Qiuxue Hut: This is considered the most beautiful and scenic location in Xixi National Park, Qiuxue Hut can only be reached by boat. Visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the wetlands, and it is a main attraction in the park.
Xixi Cottage: This structure is located in the southeast portion of the park, and is surrounded by bamboo and plum trees. It was the private residence of Ming Dynasty scholar and poet, Feng Mengzhen (1546 to 1605). He was noted for his poetry and collection of antiquity. A serene pond is situated adjacent ot the cottage, adding to the idyllic beauty of the location.
Yanshui Fishing Village: The tourist centre is surrounded by willow trees, and sits next to a quiet pond. It is also referred to as “Fog and Water Fishing Village”, or “Misty Water Fishing Village”. Enjoy the numerous local delicacies that are offered here.
Dragon Boat Festival: this is the most famous and popular event that happens in Xixi National Park. Every June, thousands gather in Hangzhou and surrounding areas for the Hangzhou Dragon Boat Festival. During the festival, traditional Chinese opera is performed. In addition, visitors to the park can enjoy incredible lion dance and dragon lantern dance performances as well.
- There are three choices of transportation in Xixi National Park: motor boat on the outer waterway, walking along the paths inside the park, or taking a gondola on the inner waterway. A combination of walking and boating is recommended, so you can experience and appreciate all that the wetland has to offer.
- Be careful when walking on the pathways, as some areas do not contain signage. The paths can be complex and one can easily get lost, so pay attention.
- Xixi National Park is open during April through October, from 8 AM to 6:30 PM; weekends and holidays from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM. From November to March, the park is open 8:15 AM to 6 PM; weekends and holidays, from 8 AM to 6 PM.