Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hangzhou
Hangzhou (Hangchow) lies in the north of Zhejiang province, in the Qiantangjiang delta, about 40km/25mi west of Hangzhou Bay, at 120°12'E and 30°15'N.
The rather tranqil town of Hangzhou, popularly known as ''Silk City'', is one of China's most beautiful towns; in the words of the well-known Chinese proverb ''In Heaven is Paradise, here on earth are Suzhou and Hangzhou''. The famous ''Dragon Well'' tea (Longjing cha) which is hand-picked twice a year is grown in this region.
Hangzhou, one of China's six historical capital cities, can boast of 2100 years of history. It was first mentioned as an important urban settlement known as Qiantang in 221 BC. It was given its present name in the year 589 during the Sui dynasty (581-618); when the Grand Canal was then built between Beijing and Hangzhou the town grew rapidly in importance. From the 9th C onwards, over a period of 237 years and under fourteen emperors, Hangzhou was repeatedly chosen to be a capital city. Its truly halcyon days began when the rulers of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) fled here after they had lost control of north China and their capital city of Kaifeng and sought to make Handan their new capital. With them came artists and academics.
Marco Polo visited Hangzhou in the 13th C, was immediately captivated by this ''Heavenly City'', as it was then known, and described it as the most beautiful in the world. Although he was impressed by the ''beautiful palaces'', the ''wonderfully built houses'' and the twelve thousand stone bridges, the streets surfaced in stone and brick and the Turkish baths, he waxed even more enthusiastic about the town's navigational system which made it a port on both the river and the sea, and the many and varied craft workshops and their size (''every workshop employed at least ten, often fifteen, twenty, thirty or even forty men, apprentices as well as master craftsmen'').
Hangzhou is one of the best towns for shopping anywhere in China. Silk is the chief local product. Other good buys include brocade, tea (the Longjin type) and scissors made by Zhang Xiaoquan. These can be bought especially in shops along Zhongshan Zhonglu, Jiefang Lu, Hubin Lu and Yan'an Lu, the streets which form the town's main shopping quarter.
Of interest are also the following museums: the pharmacy museum (Hu Qingye Tang), a museum for traditional Chinese medicine; the silk museum (south of West Lake) with a documentation of the 5000-year history of silk production and the tea museum (southwest of West Lake) where it is possible to taste and buy tea.