West Lake West Lake



There are 36 lakes in China called Xi Hu, but this one is by far the most famous. Indeed, this West Lake is the one from which all other west lakes take their name.


Xi Hu is the symbol of Hangzhou, and can make for a pleasant outing. Twilight and dawn can be better times to view the lake, especially when it’s layered with mist.


Xi Hu was originally a lagoon adjoining Qiantang Jiang. In the 18th century the governor of Hangzhou had it dredged; later a dike was built that cut off from the river completely. The resulting lake is about 3km long and a bit under 3km wide. Two causeways, the Baidi and the Sudi, split the lake into sections.




The causeways each have a number of arched bridges, large enough for small boats and ferries to pass under. The sights are scattered around the lake—a motley collection of gardens, bridges and pavilions. Many have literary associations that are unfortunately lost on most foreigners.


 The largest island in the lake is Gu Shan (Solitary Hill Island)—the location of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Zhongshan Gongyuan and the restaurant Louwailou Caiguan. The island’s buildings and garden were part of the holiday palace of Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century. The Baidi causeway links the island to the mainland.



The smaller island in the middle of the lake is known as Lesser Yingzhou where you can look over at Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, the three small towers in the water on the south side of the island. Each tower has five holes that release shafts of candlelight on the night of the Mid—Autumn Festival in September, when the noon is full.


Boats are available for hire, along with a boat person who rows from the back. Larger boats also cruise from docks along the eastern and northern sides of the lake.

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