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Adventuring in Hangzhou 2019-05-20
Most people, without realizing it, having at some point of time confined their cognizance of West Lake to the lake itself, neglecting the adjoining mountains with plenty of attractions nestled inside that are an essential part of it. ‘The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides’ is how the UNESCO World Heritage Committee puts it. With plenty of activities to take up at the lake, like boating, strolling or cycling along the lakeside road, sightseeing and soaking up the past in the historical sites scattered around the lake, one is spoilt for choice. However, none of these can offer visitors the experience of viewing the lake from the top of one of the mountains.

The rolling hills framing West Lake are extended ridges of Tianmu Mountain and are divided into two distinct folds- the outer one includes the Northern Peak, Tianzhu Hill and Wuyun Hill among others showcasing towering hills and crystal clear streams. The some of the hills comprising the inner fold are the Southern Peak, Jade Emperor Hill, Phoenix Hill and Wushan Hill, characterized by marvellous karst caves and hills formed by volcanic rocks. For a different angle from which to view West Lake and a chance to explore the hidden features among these hills that contributed to the formation of the scenic and cultural landscape of the area, hiking along the trails of the following hills makes for a nice summer escape.

Precious Stone Hill (宝石山)

Located at the northern bank of West Lake, the hill is famous for its odd-shaped igneous rocks which sparkle like precious stones in the glow of dusk and dawn. For this enticing facet alone, the hill finds itself ranked in the ‘Top Ten Views of West Lake’ list of 2007 under the name of ‘Precious Stone Floating in Rosy Cloud’.

The Hill is speckled with a good number of scenic and historical attractions, such as the time-honoured inscriptions on the cliff at Shihan Road, the Big Buddha Head, various stone figures, the Baochu Pagoda and the Alighting Phoenix Pavilion. Closer to the hilltop, one can find a small Chuan Zheng Cave furnished with stone tables and beds where hikers can take rest, while the Lion Peak on top of Precious Stone Hill offers an excellent view of the lake.

Solitary Hill (孤山)

Located within the West Lake Scenic Area, since ancient times the hill has served as one of the best places to view plum blossoms in Hangzhou. Standing solitarily with only Bai Causeway and Xiling Bridge connecting it to Beishan Road, the hill was named for its aloofness from the rest of the scenic area. The enchanting scenery is also home to many historical relics, with Wenlan Pavilion, the imperial library in Jiangnan Region built in the Qing Dynasty, the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, and the temporary imperial palace of Qing emperors at its southern foot. The Xiling Seal-engravers’ Society is at the west side of the hilltop along with the Tomb of Qiujin, a national heroine executed after a failed uprising against the Qing Dynasty. Fanghe Pavilion, also called Crane Pavilion, a commemorative monument built to honour Lin Hejing, a poet of the Song Dynasty, can be found on the northeast slope of Solitary Hill.

Wu Hill (吴山)

Once serving as the west border of the State of Wu during the Spring and Autumn Period (700-446 BC), the hill is located at the southeast bank of West Lake and rolls down to the downtown area. ‘Heavenly Wind over Wu Hill’ provides one of the top views of West Lake, commanding a panoramic view of bustling Hefang Street and downtown Hangzhou with a backdrop of the serene Lake. Wu Hill is well-known for five things- pristine springs among ancient trees, fascinating rocks and caves, temples and shrines, engaging customs and rich historical relics. Moreover, at the northern foot of the hill lies China’s first traditional medicine museum inside the Hu Qing Yu Tang Pharmacy, a building more than a hundred years old, featuring impressive Qing style architecture.
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