Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Afternoon Around Leifeng Pagoda and West Lake of Hangzhou

Hangzhou was never part of our original itinerary for our four day trip to Eastern China, I actually have never heard of this city before, but it got me really curious as to why the explorer Marco Polo declared it as 'the most splendid city in the world' together with Suzhou, even comparing them to a paradise! We only had one day to spare for Hangzhou with plans to see the Impression West Lake Show, but after telling my mom how much the tickets cost, she said to just cancel the plan and just spend the allotted money for pasalubong. Being the obedient daughter that I am (LOL) and after all, mothers knows best, I listened to her. So, we decided to spend the whole day walking around the most-famed icon of this city, The West Lake.

west lake hangzhou
Good vibes at West Lake, China

Before actually heading to West Lake, we decided to pass by some interesting tourist spots nearby our hostel. First was Hefang Street, it is a commercial street that has been preserved since ancient times. You can mostly see teashops, restaurants, and even pharmacies! Herbal medicines are dime a dozen here and most of the shops have stood here for over a century, so if you are a big fan of Chinese medicine, it's like hitting two birds with one stone.

hefang street

chinese herbal medicine

We also went to see Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔) which is just located at Sunset Hill of West Lake. This structure was built during 975 AD by Qian Hongchu, the last king of Wuyue Kingdom, to celebrate the birth of his son from his favorite concubine, Huang Fei, which the octagonal five-storey pagoda was originally named after. Though during 1924, the original structure collapsed due to damages from the war and locals stealing bricks from the building believing it will give them healing remedies. It was later rebuilt just last 2002 to the pagoda that we see today. You could still see the remnants of the old pagoda as they have built the new structure just above it. The new pagoda is almost the exact replica of the old one in terms of its shape, size and design.

leifeng pagoda hangzhou
This sight was something new to me, but if you have bad knees then this escalator would surely be of help
leifeng pagoda
 mudra at Leifeng Pagoda
the original structure of Leifeng Pagoda

We explored the area with focus on the fourth and fifth floors wherein you could have a towering view of the West Lake. We particularly enjoyed the display of artistically carved wooden panels that depict one of the most famous legends about West Lake, the story of the White Snake, Bai Suzhen and scholar Xu Xian. It tells us about the White Snake who was saved by Xu Xian in her past life. Same with other love stories, long story short, they fall in love with each other and Bai Suzhen, who turns into human using her power, gives her hand to Xu Xian as a way to repay him. Knowing about this, the antagonist of the story, Monk Fahui, goes furious because Bai Suzhen stole his elixir that gives them power. He then tells the truth to Xu Xian who tests this theory and dies after finding out the truth. Bai Suzhen decides to steal the remedy to bring her husband back to life, but the monk imprisons her in Jinshan Temple (that is also located in Hangzhou by the way) but Bai Suzhen was able to escape by flooding the temple. She was able to give birth to a child afterwards, but afterwards Monk Fuhai captures her and finally imprisons her at Leifeng Pagoda.

west lake leifeng pagoda
birds eye view of West Lake
leifeng pagoda china
There are several paintings and carvings scattered around the pagoda that tells us about the folk tale of Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian.
golden carvings of Buddha
travel hangzhou west lake
At the top, you would be rewarded with a towering view of the lake and the city of Hangzhou

The UNESCO heritage site Xihu or West Lake is located at Southwest side of the city. This lake is quite famous in China and has been imitated around different parts of the country, one example is Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace in Beijing. It has served as a great inspiration to writers, poets, philosophers and painters throughout China's ancient history. This water wonderland presents different views that embraces the traditional Chinese artistic elements. One can spend time around West Lake by seeing the different man-made attractions such as the previously mentioned Leifeng Pagoda, artificial islands, temples, bridges and gardens.

west lake china

west lake

From Leifeng Pagoda, we decided to just walk to the opposite side of the lake via the Bai Causeway. There are actually many ways to enjoy the sights around the lake; one is to take a boat cruise that can range around 50-100 CNY per person, ride a bike, go jogging or just walk over the different scenic spots. The two hour walk was certainly refreshing and we didn't really get tired at all because of the many beautiful views we saw, it served as our fuel to keep on going. We also didn't follow any path or guide, we just went with the "tourist flow", but there are actually scenic spots that would help others appreciate the beauty of West Lake more, one of them is "Sunset Glow of Leifeng Pagoda." Unlike any lakes that is famous for its backdrop of icy mountains, or luscious green forests, West Lake is more famous for its lovely landscape and artistic gardens.

 Lakeside Boulevard hangzhou
Lakeside Boulevard
perfect tambayan for couples as well!

A trip to Hangzhou could take two-three days but we chose to concentrate on its main attraction. Spending half a day at West Lake was a relaxing way to conclude our four-day trip to Eastern China. This country is just too large and we have barely scratched the surface. I wish I would have another opportunity to visit again, and hopefully, with the entire family.

west lake sunset

1 comment :

  1. nice pictures and folk tale about Bai Suzhen. Thanks for the details. Very informative.


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