Land Of Mystery
by Ludi Wang
Photography by Ludi Wang
In 2016, Hangzhou took the spotlight when it became the first city in China to hold the G20 summit, an international forum where governors and officials from 20 major countries gather to discuss global issues.
I visited Hangzhou four months after the summit took place. My parents and the taxi driver discussed the summit on our way from the airport to downtown Hangzhou, but my attention was on the drizzling sky and infinite misty whiteness outside.
Hangzhou in January was cold and wet, but the weather only added to the mystery of Hangzhou.
Stop 1: The West Lake
The West Lake is no question the best-known attraction in Hangzhou and probably the first stop of every tourist. West Lake is known as the place where the lovers first meet as told in the love story of Xu Xian and Madame White Snake.
When we arrived, the rains got heavier and the fog blurred the line between the water and the sky. Pedestrians strolled along the walking trail around the lake.
Surrounded by tourists wearing modern-day clothes, it was hard to imagine the ancient tale; when I finally hopped onto the touring boat and slowly approached the center of the lake, I felt small as I stared into the distance. For one second, it felt as if the legend took place there just yesterday. I was almost sure I saw Madame White Snake show up again on the Broken Bridge and disappear in one blink.
Stop 2: Qianlong Ancient Trail
Our second stop was not a tourist attraction in Hangzhou but was nevertheless a breathtaking experience, literally. It took us approximately 40 minutes to walk the trail. We gave up holding the umbrella halfway through the trek and decided to let nature “purify” us.
Qianlong was the sixth emperor of the Qing Dynasty in Chinese history. The trail we walked was named after him because, according to tradition, he had walked the trail three times. It was rare for the emperor to leave the Forbidden City so Qianlong’s trip to the area proves its importance.
Along the trail, we saw brooks, waterfalls, towering trees and squirrels. The trail connects a deep forest to a mountain village that is famous for producing the best tea in China.
What was the secret that made Qianlong return to this place again and again? Legend says that Qianlong returned to the village many times to enjoy some of that famous tea that was not even offered at his palace.
Stop 3: Hefang Street
Hefang Street is a commercial street with a long history. It showcases various Chinese crafts and authentic local snacks. It is an enjoyable way to finish your stay in Hangzhou with an opportunity to buy plenty of souvenirs!
Long before I visited Hangzhou, I learned that legends energize and mystify all aspects of the city; from the West Lake that has grown synonymous with Hangzhou or to dishes you order in the local eatery. I wonder if I could ever possibly uncover all of the tales hidden within the ancient city that is Hangzhou.