Culture and leisure by the water
2016-09-23, Xu Lin

Often referred to as “West Lake’s sister”, Hangzhou’s Xianghu Lake gives visitors a chance to learn about the history and culture of East China’s Zhejiang province.

And Xianghu Lake Tourism Resort is the perfect platform for this. Here, guests can enjoy cultural and leisure activities in scenic spots along the banks, by foot or by boat. 

In a building resembling a giant canoe, the Kuahuqiao Site Museum hosts an 8,000-year-old canoe, which has been carefully repaired with tree sap by its builders. The museum also houses pottery, prehistoric stone, bone and wooden artifacts.

The discovery of the ancient canoe pushed the known history of Zhejiang’s civilization to eight millennia ago, 1,000 years earlier than previously believed.

The exhibition room beneath Xianghu Lake’s surface has machines in place to monitor humidity levels and check for cracks in the canoe.

“It’s tricky to prevent threats like mold and microorganisms,” said the museum’s curator, Wu Jian, adding that there is no precedent for such preservation.

Next to the museum is Hangzhou Polar Ocean Park, which boasts 18 animal and 1,000 fish species. 

Daily shows feature performances by dolphins and leopard sharks. And the main characters of the popular Finding Nemo and Finding Dory movies are represented by clownfish, royal blue tang fish and humpback whales.

If visitors are lucky, they can spot shark teeth on the aquarium floors, as sharks regularly shed teeth throughout their lives. Looking up in the arch tunnel, a leopard shark may be seen resting on its belly since they are nocturnal.

In the Snow Village Room, guests can experience polar temperatures with the benefit of thick coats distributed at the entrances. It is here that visitors often confuse languid penguins for statues, until they move.

The park’s mascots, including a turtle and a polar bear, are rendered as ice sculptures enjoying a birthday party at the beach with fruit and desserts. Bumper cars and ice slides are also on offer for guests.

Nearby, Hangzhou Oriental Culture Garden hosts traditional architecture influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. The 800-year-old Yangqi Temple was rebuilt on its original site and today draws many Buddhists.

Near the entrance, a rockery inside a fountain splashes to religious music, and serves as the pedestal for a statue of Guanyin, also known as the Goddess of Mercy. It pours holy water from a jar and disappears when the music stops.

A path roughly 2,700 meters long runs through the garden and is decorated with ornate paintings. Motifs include West Lake scenery and references to Journey to the West, one of China’s most celebrated literary works.

In November, the garden will host a Xi Shi stage show using an actual mountain and river as its background.

The show’s namesake protagonist — one of the “four beauties” of Chinese history — was presented as a tribute to the king of Wu by the newly subjugated Yue kingdom in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). The goal was to distract him from state affairs so Yue could rise up and reclaim independence. It worked.

“It’s about love, kinship and the pursuit of peace,” said Xie Guoquan, chief planner and screenwriter of the show. “The plot integrates folk culture with natural scenery.”

The show will feature about 300 performers and special effects bringing life to objects, he said. For instance, snowflakes will fall and trees will turn white when Xi Shi’s parents escort her to the Wu palace.

Throughout the entire lake, however, Mother Nature uses natural effects to change the scenery in ways that have inspired the works of visiting poets. The lake is also ringed by a cycling lane roughly 15 kilometers long with various bike rental facilities and resting places. 

Two stone pathways curl up the surrounding mountains. A total of 108 bridges of different styles showcase the history of local architecture. Some are original while others are replicas.

The lake itself was recently restored to its original gourd shape and expanded to the 6 square kilometer size of ancient times.

Han Changlai, head of the Xianghu Lake Tourism Resort Working Committee, said: “We hope to attract visitors to enjoy the culture, natural landscape and good air.”

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