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Hangzhou

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.

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.

EXPERIENCES

EXPERIENCES

Buddhist Temples

With your expert guide, visit a selection of seven Buddhist temples, the most renowned of which is Lingyin Si or “Soul’s Retreat.” Founded in the first year of Xianhe of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (326 AD), the temple once housed 3,000 monks who worshipped in more than 70 halls. Although now reduced in size, it remains one of the ten most important Buddhist temples in the country. In the Main Hall sits an 82-foot high, gold-gilded statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, the largest sitting Buddha in China.

Hangzhou Tea Museum

Enjoy an authentic tea ceremony that involves an athletic style of pouring at the Hangzhou Tea Museum. The tea grown here, called Longjing (or Dragon Well), is the “Bordeaux” of Chinese teas, and comprises all the tea grown in the valleys around Hangzhou that are watered by this one source.

Longjing Restaurant

Set on a verdant hillside is the exclusive Longjing Restaurant, which has just eight tables. Have lunch here and continue sipping a variety of delicious teas. Although the menus are set, they change regularly as the chef has relationships with local farmers and buys ingredients directly from them several times a week.

Reflexology

Enjoy a Chinese reflexology foot massage at a lakeside spa. Each point in your foot is linked to the various parts of and organs in your body; sharp pain or a sudden reflexive response when applying pressure to certain points of your
foot denotes possible stress to your body’s corresponding appendage or organ.

Temples of Tianzhu

There are also three fascinating temples of Tianzhu, the ancient Chinese name for India, linked together by the Pilgrim Path. These are The Temple of Faxi (Happiness), which was built between 906 and 970 AD; Middle India Peak, built in 597 AD; and Fajing, or Reflection, Temple, built in 330 AD. The latter is the only nunnery in Hangzhou and is surrounded by tea fields and a small village; many older Hangzhou women visit this temple to pray and spend time with the nuns.

Traditional Medicine

Enjoy a traditional medicine check-up at Huqingyutang, the most famous Chinese pharmacy in southern China. Medicine in China dates back some 4,000 years and began with the ancient emperors’ interest in finding the elixir of life. Today, the treatment is still founded on the use of herbs, diet and acupuncture, with an emphasis on qi, the vital force of living things.

West Lake

Go to West Lake and see why it inspired the Chinese saying, “In heaven there is paradise; on earth, Hangzhou and Suzhou.” There are 10 of the most beautiful spots on the West Lake, each remembered by a four-character mnemonic. Visit a selection of these 10 spots in a motorized boat with a covered deck.

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TRAVELOGUES

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