October 28, 2008,08:50 +0900(JST) China’s ancient capital Hangzhou and West Lake
I’ve been to China countless times, but I had never been to Hangzhou until my last trip. Hangzhou is a historic city, one of the six ancient capitals of China, whose origin can be traced back to the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC). Hangzhou prospered particularly as the capital of Wuyue Kingdom (907 – 978) and the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). Various locations in Hangzhou hint at its history, but the most prominent one, which is also the heart of the City, is Xi Hu or West Lake.
The eastern sky started to brighten just before 6 a.m. From my hotel room on the seventh floor, with a commanding view of West Lake, I admired the lake as it appeared in the morning. As the morning mist that had covered the surface of the lake quietly drifted and disappeared, small islands in the lake and old towers and arbors that dotted its shores became faintly and gradually visible. That was an unforgettable sight.
I changed quickly and went downstairs and outdoors, to make the most of the limited time I had there. Despite the early hour, there were already tourists about, speaking loudly to each other. They were probably unable to contain their emotions at the beauty of West Lake. In the park, I saw people doing t’ai chi, enjoying silent walks, breakfasting on benches. For an early Friday morning, there was a lively atmosphere around the lake.
I crossed Bai Di (Bai Causeway), constructed when the poet Bai Juyi was stationed as Governor in Hangzhou during the Tang Dynasty Zhenyuan Period (785 – 805). Bai Di was lined on both sides with peach and willow trees. In spring, the colorfully scenic site must please people’s eyes, as described in one of Bai Juyi’s poems. I also quickly crossed Su Di (Su Dike), which the poet Su Dongpo built, as did Bai Juyi, when he became Hangzhou’s Governor during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127). Both Di’s add scenic beauty to West Lake. Willow, plum, peach, fragrant olive trees and other such typically Chinese plants are found there. The lakeside promenade was clean and seemed to comfort visitors.
I suppose the beauty of West Lake is a result of many years’ fusion of Nature and Chinese wisdom. Oh, yes, I shouldn’t forget that West Lake (Xi Hu) is said to be named after Xi Shi, one of the Four Beauties of ancient China, originally from the ancient State of Yue (Zhejiang Province) of the Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 481 BC).
Now, let me close today's entry with my poor poem (quatrain with seven Chinese characters in each line).