Pavilions of Distinction Surround West Lake
If West Lake is considered one huge garden then the pavilions around it are symbols of its beauty.
Traditional Chinese architecture guidelines call for pavilions to be integrated with the surrounding scenery. Generally they are built at the best location of scenic spots and are expected to provide picturesque views that highlight an area’s natural beauty.
Pavilions in northern China usually feature the imperial style that comprises red pillars and yellow tiles. Southern pavilions are generally more low-profile. They are often characterized by black-tiled roofs with up-turned eaves and dark red wooden pillars. Though pavilions are considered an indispensable part of Chinese gardens, few tourists these days pay much attention to them. In many cases they are only used for shelter on rainy days.
More than 100 pavilions are situated around West Lake. Shanghai Daily picks three and reveals their stories.
Fanghe Pavilion was built in memory of Lin Hejing, a poet from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). One of the most famous poets of his time, Lin lived in seclusion on Solitary Hill for more than 20 years.
His great works won him nationwide fame. After his death, the then emperor gave him the posthumous title of “Hejing Master” even though Lin had refused to hold office in government. Lin’s poetry and story ensure he still has an important place in Chinese history today.
The poet never married and never fathered any children. When not writing poems, Lin spent his spare time planting plum trees and raising cranes. Eventually people said he took a plum tree as his wife and had cranes as sons.
Fanghe Pavilion, which means “release cranes,” was originally built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) after Lin had died. In later dynasties, poems and calligraphy works were written on the pavilion in tribute to this great poet.
Behind Fanghe Pavilion is Lin’s tomb. It’s set among plum trees and bronze crane statues.
This might be the most famous pavilion around West Lake. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), famous imperial official Li Wei presided over construction of the pavilion. Its Chinese name literally means “gathering literati,” which in return reflected the then royal court’s desire of seeking scholars. It was later listed as one of West Lake’s 18 scenic spots.
Every time Emperor Qianlong visited Hangzhou he would review a military parade from the pavilion.
Since it is located at a busy scenic area it is often flocked with tourists. It collapsed during a storm in 2012 and was then closed for renovations for six months. The pavilion’s original appearance was kept, but it’s now made with steel rather than wood to prevent future accidents.
This pavilion was built to commemorate patriotic general Yue Fei, who fought during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).
Yue fought a long campaign against the invading Jurchens but was imprisoned and executed on false charges through the machinations of treacherous court official Qin Hui.
Han Shizhong, a loyal general and Yue’s friend, erected the pavilion on Feilai Mountain to express his sorrow for losing Yue. Since Yue had once written a poem about Cuiwei Pavilion in Chizhou, Anhui Province, Han gave the Hangzhou pavilion the same name.
At the time, Qin dominated the imperial court and anything commemorating Yue was forbidden. Han therefore used a carving on the pillar to note the pavilion was only constructed to provide people with a rest stop along the mountain road. These characters can still be seen today.
The sun is shining and the autumn wind is just right. In such good weather, it is a good idea to travel back in time in the Hangzhou Confucius Temple. Here, you can cultivate your mind and soul. In the temple, tablets can be seen everywhere, positioning people instantly in the ancient seat of learning in the capital city of the Southern Song Dynasty. Here, you can stop and appreciate the ancient moss-covered stone tiles, which seems to narrate the thousands-of-year history of the Confucius Temple.