In traditional Chinese aesthetics, the ultimate harmony in a landscape arises from the concept of shan-shui, or the interplay between mountains and waters. Hangzhou, a beautiful city home to the vast, scenic West Lake, possesses this concept in abundance. A thriving, commercial city for hundreds of years, Hangzhou hosted, among others, Arab traveler Ibn Battuta and Italian merchant Marco Polo, who once described the city as "beyond dispute, the finest and noblest in the world."
Sadly, much of the splendor of Old Hangzhou was completely destroyed in the turmoil of the nineteenth century, though thankfully many of its scenic wonders remained intact. Today, the historic West Lake and its surrounding tea plantations remain popular destinations.