The results of 2014 Charming China, the appraisal of China’s most charming cities through expatriates' eyes, have been released and once again Hangzhou has made it onto the list for the fifth time. The event, the only one of its kind in China, is entirely voted by expatriates – almost 20,000 expatriates, to be exact, voted on 30 cities and 30 counties through the internet and 1,536 professionals through given questionnaires.
For years Hangzhou has endeavoured to attract expatriate professionals to the city and since 2012, more than 40,000 foreign experts have worked in Hangzhou, 10 of which were given a Friendship Award by the central government for their contributions.
Earning the title of one of the most charming cities through expatriates’ eyes owes partly to the favourable working conditions and partly to the lovely living environment which is surrounded by numerous natural, cultural and historical wonders. The following are just some of the wonders in Hangzhou voted by its netizens.
West Lake has gradually become the byword for Hangzhou and throughout the four seasons can be seen glimmering like a pearl shining in heaven. For centuries, its breath-taking scenery, abundant cultural and historical relics have been drawing visitors in, making it hard for them to ever leave. Surrounded by mountains on three sides teemed with natural blessings like streams and hills together with human marvels such as Lingyin Temple and Leifeng Pagoda – the things you can see and do in and around the West Lake are more than you can ever image.
Centuries ago, the notorious Emperor Yang of Sui (隋炀帝) ordered the digging of the Grand Canal which stretches from Beijing to Hangzhou and covers a distance of 1,776 km. According to historical records the project was meant for his own pleasures, for viewing flowers in the Jiangnan area and for transporting good quality rice from the south.
However what the Grand Canal went over and above in doing and what it still does today is provide a means of communication from the north to the south of China, both culturally and financially. As an UNESCO World Heritage site since June 22, 2014, the Grand Canal is overflowing in both visitors and charm and dotted along its tranquil waters are an abundance of historical sites and modern day discoveries where you can step back in time whilst soaking up a number of today’s spectacular sights.
Xixi National Wetland Park
If you say West Lake and Grand Canal are wonders forged by human beings, then you could say Xixi National Wetland Park is a gift from the heavens. With 70% of its area covered by water the park’s landscape consists mainly of crisscrossing rivers where ponds, stamps and islands can also be seen dotting in and between.
Cultural elements can also be perceived here and there which are contributed by the many frequented literati and villagers that dwell nearby and which, over time, have attributed to its current style and established it as the birthplace of Nanxi (South Opera). Xixi National Wetland Park is also the venue for Dragon Boat Racing at Jiang Village - a competition having won the heart of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty who bestowed it the name ‘the pageant of dragon boats’.
Spring is here and so is the 2017 “Intoxicating Springtime” – Hangzhou Outdoor Leisure Season which, in the following three months, will provide the city with over 50 springtime outdoor experiences and tour itineraries. With six themes to choose from such as child-parent, flower viewing, games and sports, spring couldn’t be livelier.
The annual time for picking Longjing green tea leaves, one of the top ten renowned teas of China, has begun in Hangzhou and everywhere tea farmers are now busy picking and hand frying the famous leaves. If you wanted to take a sneak peek at how the farmers meticulously pick their verdant leaves from bushes nestled in undulating hills, or if you wanted to sample, at first hand, this year’s Longjing variety, then head to the following three tea villages which are known for their tea, tea culture and tea-related tourist attractions.