Nestled among canopies of trees beside a hill, Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou is peacefully poised beside the gorgeous West Lake in the city known as Paradise on Earth.
Higher floors of the hotel command views of the West Lake that lie to its south. There are trees beyond trees, water beyond water, boats beyond boats, hills beyond hills leading off into the horizon that merges with the West Lake.
The scenery changes from dawn to evening, from spring to winter. On a misty morning, when you wake up and go to the balcony, the Lake looks inviting, and the nearby hills are overgrown with trees and bushes. The undulating green looks like waves.
Early in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), a temple was built on the site of today's Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou. Fenglin Temple survived the vicissitudes of the following dynasties until 1955. The temple was totally demolished, and in its place the Hangzhou Hotel was built.
The late premier Zhou Enlai was a regular guest at the Hangzhou Hotel. In 1963, after the opening of the adjoining Xiling Hotel, Zhou moved to Xiling Hotel.
In January 1985, Hong Kong-based Shangri-La International Hotels and Resorts entered into a joint venture with the Zhejiang Tourism Bureau. The Hangzhou Hotel and Xiling Hotel were amalgamated and became the Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou. The previous Xiling Hotel became the east wing, whilst the Hangzhou Hotel became the west wing.
The marriage of the two hotels saw the garden combined to the present-day 40 acres, something which even today cannot be matched by any other hotel in Hangzhou.
Within the grounds of the hotel there are many huge trees, among them 44 camphor trees that are more than 300 years old. Seven have been certified on the list of National Protected Cultural Relics.
Hangzhou Shangri-La was then the first joint venture and first international hotel in Zhejiang Province. It was also the first Shangri-La hotel in the Chinese mainland which marks the birthplace of the group's further expansions in the country. The joint venture was an immediate success.
In 1999 the owners invested nearly $15 million. The complete refurbishment of the hotel took 15 months, and has resulted in a fantastic combination of modernity, tradition and stunning surroundings.
Over the years, Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou has hosted many distinguished guests from around the world including the late US President Richard Nixon, Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kwan Yew, former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, the late Indian Premier Sonia Gandhi, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
(Shanghai Star March 21, 2002)