West Lake borders 'cloud-capped hills' on three sides and adjoins the sprawling downtown metropolis on the other. The expansive waters framed by rolling hills are a photographer's dreamscape. The vistas are multi-faceted and boundless. The serenity of the lake contrasts sharply with the bustling city on its southern shore, and it is this curious juxtaposition that brings out its dramatic charm.
Over the centuries, West Lake has influenced garden design all over China, as well as in Japan and Korea. It bears an exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of designing landscapes for the purpose of creating series of vistas which reflect an idealized and pragmatic fusion between humans and nature.
The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising not only West Lake itself, but also the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. The landscape possesses numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands.Its intricate visual combinations are often overwhelming.
Its beauty has been celebrated by writers and artists since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). In order to consolidate its astounding beauty, its islands, causeways as well as the lower slopes of its hills, have been 'improved' by the addition of numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees which merge with farmed landscapes. The main artificial elements of the lake, the two causeways and the three islands, were created from repeated dredging between the 9th and 12th centuries. Since the Southern Song Dynasty (thirteenth century) ten poetically named scenic places have been identified as embodying idealized, classic landscapes - that manifest the perfect fusion between man and nature. West Lake is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape that displays with great clarity, the ideals of Chinese landscape aesthetics, as expounded by writers and scholars in the Tang and Song Dynasties. The landscaping of West Lake has had a profound and continuing impact on the design of gardens not only in China but further afield, where lakes and causeways have imitated the harmony and beauty that West Lake offers. The key components of West Lake still allow it to inspire visitors to 'project feelings onto the landscape'. The visual parameters of this vast landscape garden are clearly defined, all the way to the ridges of the surrounding hills.
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.