The capital of Zhejiang Province, 117 miles south of Shanghai at the southern end of the
Grand Canal, Hangzhou was one of the sites in China that most impressed Marco Polo, his
father and uncle when they visited in 1280. He readily agreed with the popular Chinese
saying, "Above there is heaven; below, Hangzhou and Suzhou." The city remains
one of the most popular tourist destinations in China because of it scenic surroundings.
Hangzhou recently opened a Silk Museum where you can see the entire production process,
from cocoon to finished fabric. Newly developed attractions around Hangzhou provide you
with an in-depth view of the colorful life south of the Yangtze River. Just west of the
city is West Lake, which is made up of five interconnecting sections surrounded by
mountains on three sides and the city on the fourth. A boat tour around West Lake offers
visitors delightful stopovers at jewel-like pagodas and teahouses, temples, caves, and
hidden springs that are all skillfully connected to create a stunning water and landscape
West Lake is a large freshwater lake surrounded by hills on three sides and the city to
it's north. Ancient buildings, sculptures, temples and man-made gardens have been knit
into every nook and corner of the natural water surfaces, wooded hills, caves and springs
to turn this world-famous tourist resort into bewitching mosaic of landscape.
On the north-west side of the lake towers Lingyin Monastery, which was established around
326 AD as the Spirit's Retreat. Its main feature is the 64 foot-high camphor wood-carved
Buddha, and an underground series of caves that are decorated with Buddha carvings.
Pagoda of Six Harmonies
Named after the six codes of Buddhism, this 200 foot-high octagonal pagoda was built in
970 AD to serve as a lighthouse. Towering over the Qiantang River, the pagoda offers
fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.
Tours of the Hangzhou Brocade Factory showcase each of the intricate steps involved in
producing Hangzhou's exquisite, world-famous silk brocades. Nearby is the Silk Museum,
which showcases silk- making artifacts and traces the history of 5,000 years of
silk-making in China. The gift shop has an excellent variety of silk products for sale.
The Grand Canal
Like the Great Wall, the Grand Canal is not one but a series of interlocking projects from
different eras, the earliest dating back 2,400 years. If you can spend two or more weeks
in China, this is an excellent side trip. The tour along this man-made wonder of the
ancient world is wonderful. The Grand Canal continues to function as an important
waterway, connecting Hangzhou with distant Beijing (in 610 AD); it casts a living portrait
of ancient Chinese life that remain much the same today. Canal tours can range from a
three-hour boat ride between Suzhou to Wuxi to a four-day Grand Canal cruise aboard
modern, air-conditioned cruise ships.