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Hangzhou -- 'Paradise on Earth'
Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province 180 kilometers southwest of Shanghai, is the center of politics, economy, culture, and communications of the province.

First built as a county during the Qin Dynasty some 2,100 years ago, Hangzhou became prosperous after the building of the Grand Canal in the Sui Dynasty (581-618). The city was the capital of Wuyue State (893-978) during the Five Dynasties Period and of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). It is one of the six famous ancient capitals of China. (The other five are Beijing, Nanjing, Xi'an, Luoyang, and Kaifeng.)

Hangzhou has been called a "paradise on earth," with its picturesque West Lake and its many other world-famous sites. It is also noted for its silk industry, which has existed since the seventh century and still flourishes today.

West Lake

This lake, lying to the west of Hangzhou, is the most beautiful of the thirty or more lakes in China which bear the same name. Once a small bay at the mouth of the Qiantang River, it was separated from the sea by river sediment to became a lake. The lake with its islands covers approximately six square kilometers. The charming Solitary Hill Islets (Gushan) rises above the water in the north part of the lake, which is bordered by hills on three sides. The Su Causeway runs roughly north and south and the Bai Causeway east and west. The lake has several segments called the Inner Lake, the Outer Lake, Yue Lake, West Inner Lake, and Small South Lake. There are three islands in the Outer Lake: Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (Santan Yunyue), Mid-Lake Pavilion (Huxinting), and Lord Ruan's Mound (Ruangongdun).

Dozen's of historical sites are scattered about some fifty-square-kilometer scenic area around the lake. The wooded hills encircling the lake are studded with pavilions, towers, pagodas, and caves. Springs, steams, and pools are scattered among peaks, rocks, caves, and gullies. The "ten scenic beauties" of West Lake are generally thought to be as follows: Spring Dawn at the Su Causeway (Suti Chunxiao), Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor (Huagang Guanyu), Autumn Moon on Calm Lake (Pingnhu Qiuyue), Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows (Liulang Wenying), Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds (Shuangfeng Zhayun), Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (Santan Yunyue), Evening Sunlight at Thunder Peak Pagoda (Leifeng Xizhao), Late Bell at Nanping Hill (Nanping Wanzhong), Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard (Quyuan Fenghe), and Melting Snow at Broken Bridge (Duanqiao Canxue).

Temple of the Soul's Retreat (Lingyinsi)

Facing Cool Spring (Lengquan), Temple of the Soul's Retreat, often referred to as Lingyin Temple, stands at the foot of Lingyin Hill northwest of West Lake. Built more than 1,600 years ago, it is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in China; its major buildings are Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings (Tianwangdian) and the Grand Hall. In the center of the Grand Hall which is 33.6 meters high and roofed with glazed tiles, is a gilded nine-meter-high statue of Sakyamuni sitting on terrace shaped like a lotus flower. In front of him stands a statue of Maitreya and behind him a statue of Skanda. Buddha's four warrior attendants and other gods and goddesses line the two sides of Sakyamuni. Ancient trees thrive in front of the temple, and a number of pavilions (such as Spring Stream, Gully Thunder and Cold Spring) are built around the Cool Spring.

Peak That Flew from Afar (Feilaifeng)

Also named Nimble Vulture (Lingjiu) Peak, Peak That Flew from Afar, some 200 meters above sea level, towers just opposite Lingyin Temple. One local story has it that the Peak That Flew from Afar came from India: the high ridges and peaks in the area reminded the Indian monk Huili who had just arrived at the place so such of a hill in India that he argued it must have flown in from there. His suggestion was proved when a black ape and a white ape who meditated at the Indian hill were found in a cave here. Its peculiar name may also come from its being different from the hills around it. Covered with bizarre rocks and caves, it is both smaller than the surrounding hills and has a different geological structure. All the hills around it are formed with sandstones, while the Peak That Flew from Afar is composed of limestone.


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