Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Wed August 19 2015

Things To Do in Hangzhou

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | August 19, 2015

Things To Do in Hangzhou

PHOTO: Tea has a very long history in Hangzhou, a Song Dynasty capital. (Courtesy of Hangzhou Tourism)

While China’s top political leaders do their work in Beijing and China’s top business leaders do theirs in Shanghai, both groups go to Hangzhou when they want to relax in a beautiful setting. In November, 2016, the two groups will mix work and play when they come together for the annual G-20 Summit, which will be held in Hangzhou. Located along the banks of scenic West Lake, Hangzhou is a city of scenic beauty and spiritual tradition where monks, poets, painters and philosophers have helped forge sensibilities that are exclusively Chinese in origin.

The capital of Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou is one of the six oldest national capitals in China. The city has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the southern terminus of the Grand Canal and more than 5,000 years of culture and history. West Lake, surrounded on three sides by mountains, is the heart of the city. The lake fuses natural beauty and historic/cultural significance. 

The city tourism commission recently suggested an important list of attractions related to Hangzhou’s spiritual heritage.

The Yunqi Bamboo-Lined Path, an ancient Buddhist walkway winding through a centuries-old bamboo forest, is a favorite spot for taking a nature walk or even having a picnic. It’s a wonderfully meditative experience to follow the stone path as it crosses chain bridges and cuts through a gorgeous bamboo forest.

The Bells of the Jingci Temple ring out from an important Buddhist site founded more than a thousand years ago in a nearby mountain valley. Some Chinese call Jingci “the Temple of the Soul’s retreat.”

The Botanical Gardens provide a sensual parade of the seasons: the hammock forest in summer, the Yulan trees in spring, the sweet-scented osmanthus in autumn and the pines and bamboo in winter. More than 5,000 plum trees cover Lingfeng Hill.

 Take tea on Jingshan Mountain where the Classic Book of Tea (the first such book on tea) was written. Every May they celebrate with the China Chasheng (Sage of Tea) Festival. The Imperial Tea Garden at the foot of a terraced hill serves dishes made with Longjing tea leaves. Hangzhou’s National Tea Museum is the only Chinese museum dedicated to the history of tea, a history that dates back to Emperor Shennong, who in 2737 BCE accidentally drank a glass of boiling water in which a leaf of wild tea had fallen into.

The Amanfayun Hotel sits in a valley to the west of West Lake, near the Lingyin and Yongfu Temples. This luxury boutique resort has just 47 stone courtyard dwellings designed in the spirit of a traditional Chinese village, a few of which are more than 100 years old.

In April, Alexander+Roberts offers a few Small Group and Private Journeys that explore Hangzhou and West Lake. The six-day Hangzhou + Yellow Mountain is a Private Journey, which can be booked separately or as an extension for any of the company’s other China tours. The itinerary includes two nights at the JW Marriott in Hangzhou, guided visits to the ancient towns of Tunxi and Xidi, and an overnight atop Yellow Mountain. With a personal car, driver and guide throughout, the trip ends at Shanghai’s historic Fairmont Peace Hotel, a luxury Art Deco landmark overlooking the Bund in Shanghai.

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