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Hangzhou Travel Guide

Hangzhou Map

Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, is at the southern end of the Grand Canaland and one of China's seven ancient national capitals. When Marco Polo came to Hangzhou in the 13th century he declared that "it is the most beautiful and elegant city in the world". There is a popular saying: "Above there is heaven, below there are Hangzhou and Suzhou." Hangzhou's "heavenly" beauty attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to its exquisite West Lake (Xi Hu) area each year to enjoy the placid lake, beautiful gardens, reflecting pools, lavish temples and friendly lakeside teahouses.

First built over 2,200 years ago, Hangzhou is one of the cradles of China’s civilization. Hangzhou used to the capital of Wu and Yue States in the 10th century during the Five Dynasties period. The city began to prosper and flourish in the Tang Dynasty. The city had its political heyday in the Southern Song Dynasty when it served as the capital. Hangzhou witnessed rapid commercial boom in the Ming and Qing Dynasty.

In and around Hangzhou, tourists find the well-known West Lake which is surrounded by forested mountains and many more historical sites. Hangzhou is also well-known for silk and tea. A trip to Hangzhou is easily combined with a visit to a tea plantation in the hills near the West Lake.

History

Dating back to more than 2,500 years, Suzhou is one of China’s oldest cities. After the completion of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal the city began to thrive during the Sui Dynasty.  Suzhou served as the centre of silk trade along the bustling waterway. Marco Polo once marvelled at the city’s prosperity and he recorded that its inhabitants were comprised of “prudent merchants, and, as already observed, skilful in all the arts’’.  Polo noted that a number of the Suzhou people were learned in natural science, were good physicians and able philosophers. In Polo’s words, the city of Suzhou was “great” and “noble”.


During the Ming Dynasty, the industry of massive silk production developed in Suzhou. As a result, the local culture boomed and the Kunqu Opera and Pingtan Song were established. Sadly, Suzhou witnessed fatal destruction during the 1860s when the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom rebellion occupied the city. The period during World War II was also a nightmare for Suzhou when the Japanese army ravaged the city and left many ruins.

Since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Suzhou has undergone stages of renovation and it has once again rightly reclaimed its fame. It has been chosen as one of China's 24 historical and cultural cities and is one of only four tourist cities with top environmental protection (the other three being Beijing, Hangzhou and Guilin). In 1997, Suzhou caught the world's attention by having its classic gardens placed on the UNESCO list as a World Cultural Heritage site.
 
While Hangzhou’s history can be dates back more than 50,000 years to the Paleolithic Period, “ modern” Hangzhou began over 2,200 years ago. During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Periods, Hangzhou served as the capital of Wu and Yue Kingdoms. The city gained its importance when the Grand Canal was built in the Sui Dynasty. With Beijing as the northern terminus and Hangzhou as the southern terminus, the legendary waterway served as a significant transport link between the north and south China. Hangzhou witnessed rapid economic and cultural development in the Tang Dynasty when the famous West Lake, now a famous tourist attraction, was created on the western edge of Hangzhou. An old harbor was also filled in, greatly expanding the size of the city.

Hangzhou witnessed political and economic prosperity in the Southern Song Dynasty when it was established as the capital. Marco Polo once visited the city during this period and was amazed to see millions of people, bustling streets and busy river and canal traffic. The Song Dynasty Town, a recreation of a Song town will allow visitors to briefly experience the city’s prosperity in the Song Dynasty.

Although Southern Song Dynasty was sacked by the Mongols, Hangzhou continued to prosper through its river and sea trade, ship building, and naval industries. The city was opened to foreigners in 1895 under the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Today Hangzhou, with its the West Lake is one of China’s top tourist destinations.

Hangzhou Food and Restaurants

Recognized as one of the eight major schools of cuisine in China, Hangzhou food is characterized by its light flavors, enjoyable presentation and delicate cooking methods. Hangzhou cuisine makes crisp, tender, light and fresh dishes. The most famous dishes include West Lake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce, Shelled Shrimp with Dragon Well Tea, West Lake Water Shield Soup and Dongpo Pork.

West Lake Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce


It is prepared with a West Lake grass carp, weighing about 0.5kg and starved for two days, as its main ingredient. Boiled for three minutes and then sugar and vinegar sauce is poured over it.The fish tastes delicious with a taste similar to crab.


Shelled Shrimp with Dragon Well Tea


This dish is prepared with the shelled fresh water shrimps and the well-known Dragon-Well green tea leaves. It is beautiful in color has special tastes.


West Lake Water Shield Soup


Prepared with the West Lake Water Shield (a plant that grow in West Lake) and minced chicken slice, it tastes fresh and delicious.

Dongpo Pork

 


It is cooked by braising fine-skinned and thin pieces of fat streaked pork with famous Shaoxing wine in a sealed pot. When the dish is ready, the pork will be moist and red, and the sauce well be thick and tasty. It tastes savory, sweet and full of body, but not greasy.


Deep-fried Bean-curd Rolls Stuffed with Minced Tenderloin


 


Jiaohua Chicken


Hangzhou tour packages