Hangzhou: China's "Heaven on Earth" now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Culture | by Aimee Groom
Posted: June 29th, 2011 | Updated: June 29th, 2011 | Comments
Hangzhou West lake, UNESCO World heritage site 2011 Mention Hangzhou to your average Chinese person and you'll likely receive misty-eyed replies on the beauty of the West Lake and the city's famous catchphrase: "Above there is Heaven, and below there is Hangzhou." Inspiring poets, scholars and artists since the at least the 9th century, it seems that the many virtues of Zhejiang's earthly paradise have now convinced the powers that be at UNESCO, who have just this week bestowed its coveted World Heritage Site status upon Hangzhou's West Lake Cultural Landscape. Though undoubtedly changed since the days of Marco Polo's enamored description of the city as "the most elegant and beautiful place in the world," a tour of Hangzhou and its scenic West Lake is one of the top tourist draws in the country. Surrounded on three sides by verdant green hills and stepped tea fields with more than its fair share of picturesque temples, pagodas, classical Chinese gardens and scenic view points all around, West Lake represents the successful merging of human and natural landscapes. All this struck a chord with the folks at UNESCO, who write of West Lake:
The West Lake has influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries and bears an exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of improving landscapes to create a series of vistas reflecting an idealised fusion between humans and nature.
Unfortunately that idealized fusion doesn't hold true to the north of the lake where greenery recedes into urban sprawl, but that bit's not included, and you'll need to ignore the slow-moving traffic that consistently jams that lake road with horn blasts and engine noise encroaching on its tranquil beauty. That said, however, it is still one of our favorite Hangzhou's attractions in the West Lake area (you'll avoid the traffic and taxi fares this way) before heading a little further out to the Longjing Tea Plantation, where you'll discover some of China's finest tea, or hiking the paths of the surrounding hills to take in the magnificent views from on high.
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