Hangzhou's legendary West Lake conjures images of sweeping willows and morning mist along the shores of China's most famous and revered of lakes. Heralded as one of the most romantic cities in China, Hangzhou is ripe with historic and sensual sites to enchant the amorous and curious who make their way here. Just over 124 miles(200 km)southwest of Shanghai, Hangzhou requires only a short jaunt to sample its charming pagodas, the timeless West Lake and the city’s modern amenities.
What really put Hangzhou on the proverbial map was the Grand Canal. Built during the Sui dynasty, the Grand Canal was a massive network of canals and waterways linking Hangzhou to the north. As food and goods were shipped from the agriculturally rich south to supply the comparatively desolate north, Hangzhou quickly developed into an important center of transportation and trade Hangzhou's height came when the Song dynasty court was driven from its capital at Kaifeng by northern invaders. The court resettled in Hangzhou and made it the imperial capital of the Southern Song dynasty. A population boom followed and the city flourished economically and culturally Song influences still abound throughout the city-from the food to the language Qing emperor Kangxi was especially charmed by the Lingyin Temple, and one of his couplets is inscribed on the Hall of Four Heavenly Guardians which stands at the front of the temple. This celebrated temple was originally built in AD 326; despite being destroyed and rebuilt 16 times over, it remains one of Hangzhou’s main attractions. At the back of the temple is a giant 64.3-foot(19.6 m) camphor wood statue of Buddha. If it's not too crowded, the serenity of the grounds will let you feel as tranquil as Buddha. The Lingyin Temple Scenic Area is huge; the area includes the temple and the mini-mountain Feilai Peak. In one section of the park are large Buddhist rock carvings - explore the grounds and you will discover many quaint photogenic scenes.
Other attractions are centered on Hangzhou's historic silk and tea production, both of which boomed after the city was connected to the Grand Canal at the end of the 6th century, a fact not lost on visitors who make their way to the China Silk Museum to purchase choice fabrics or to the Dragon Well Tea Village to imbibe sweet drinks. If highbrow elbow rubbing is to your liking, follow the flocks to Xihu Tiandi. Located on the southern shore of West Lake, this trendy cluster of shops beckons with bamboo lined cobble stone walkways. It’s quickly becoming the hottest place to be seen, but the Six Harmonies Pagoda is still one of the coolest places to see. This 197-foot(60m) octagonal giant once served as a light house and rises in the southwest of the city overlooking the calm Qiantang River. Head behind the pagoda and follow the footpath that winds past sculptures and shrines.