Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hangzhou West Lake: Tomb of General Yu Fei

The four acre estate housing the tomb of Southern Song Dynasty (960-1279) General Yu Fei is located at the upper end of the Bai Causeway on the northeastern corner of West Lake in Hangzhou.  General Yu and his army continuously won wars against the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), but, at the end of the war, Yu was falsely accused and secretly killed in jail by his rivals.  In 1163, Yu Fei was exonerated and his corpse reburied in the current tomb, where he is now considered a national hero.  Yu Fei and his story have evolved into a representation of loyalty in the Chinese culture.

 Entrance to the tomb and inner courtyard

Occupying four acres (1.6 hectares), the tomb is in the center of the complex, with other buildings including the tomb of General Yu's son and exhibitions of Yu's life and military prowess.  Eastern and western annexes of the compound hold shrines to subordinate generals who served under General Yu.

 General Yu

 Descriptions of military prowess

 General Yu early in life and later leading his army

General Yu in battle

Other displays tell more of General Yu's story and show weapons and tactics of the period.

 Weapons of the period

In 1513, one of General Yu's commanders placed copper statues of the people who killed Yu Fei kneeling in the courtyard outside his tomb, including the chief plotter, Qin Kuai.  These statues have been replaced several times as they have been continuously cursed, spat on, vandalized, and otherwise treated quite poorly by the visitors to the tomb.  The current versions are protected as historical relics.


Next to Yu Fei's tomb is that of his son, who served as his assistant on the battlefield

Tombs of Yu Fei and his son

At the entrance to the tomb is a display of the Loyalty Cypress.  This cypress stood next to the prison where Yu Fei was killed and, legend has it, that on the very day that Yu Fei was died, the tree withered and turned in to petrified blocks.

 Blocks of the Loyalty Cypress

On exiting the tomb, I pass many school groups heading in to learn this important story in Chinese history.

School groups coming in

Leaving the grounds of the tomb, it's now time to continue the walk around West Lake.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hangzhou: West Lake

West Lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is divided by several causeways and man-made islands.  Measuring 3.2 km (2 miles) by 2.8 km (1.7 miles), the average depth of the lake is 2.3 meters (7.5 feet).  I start my exploration at the Broken Bridge on the Bai Causeway.  There are several explanations for the name of the bridge ranging from a simple thought that Gu Shan Road stops here to the, more romantic, image that when the causeway is covered with snow, the snow on the bridge melts, breaking the long white chain.

 Views across West Lake from Broken Bridge

  Broken Bridge

 Walking down the Bai Causeway from Broken Bridge

Along the causeway are people fishing, boating, dancing, jogging, and walking.

Morning ballroom dancing by the Broken Bridge

Continuing down the causeway, we are all (except for the power walkers and joggers) enjoying the great views across the lake.

 Views across the lake

Along the causeway are restaurants and great spots to rest and relax.

Restaurants and resting places

Continuing down the causeway, I find galleries and the Zhejiang Provincial Museum.  But, the place that intrigues me the most and pulls me in is the remains of the Temporary Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).  Several emperors used this temporary palace when they visited Hangzhou.  Only a few buildings remain, but the few that do and the grounds are spectacular.

Remains of the Temporary Imperial Palace

Along the rest of the causeway are beautiful gardens, welcoming me to the end of this first part of West Lake, including the largest lotus theme garden in China.

 Gardens at the upper end of the Bai Causeway

 I reflect in the gardens and prepare to continue my adventure around the lake.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hanghou, China: Arriving and Finding My Way Around

My friends in Shanghai tell me that Hangzhou is the most beautiful city in China.  I haven't been to enough Chinese cities to know this for sure, but, if not the most beautiful, it's one of the top contenders.  Hangzhou, about 175 km (100 miles) southwest of Shanghai, is the capital of Zhejiang Province and is the southernmost point of the grand canal that extends 1776 km (1100 miles) to Beijing.  One of the most beautiful features of the city is West Lake, about 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles) of shallow water surrounded by temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees.  The gardens around the lake are said to have influenced landscape design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea.

West Lake

I'll explore the delights of West Lake, but first arrive in Hangzhou and get my bearings, walking through Wulin Square in the center of town and taking in at the sites.  In the center of the square is the Zhejiang Exhibition Hall, an impressive building surrounded by gardens and sculptures, a beautiful and calming mixture.

Zhejiang Exhibition Hall

 Buildings surrounding Wulin Square

 Nearby gardens

 A short ways from the square is the grand canal connecting Hongzhou to Beijing and smaller canals weaving through the city, great places to walk and relax.

 Grand canal and small canals through the city

And, everywhere there are small parks along the streets and on the canals.  People are out and about, just enjoying the day in the park.

 Small parks throughout the city

 Another predominant feature is the space set aside for bicycles and the large bicycle sharing program (like most Chinese cities).

 Bicycles everywhere

Whimsical bicycle locking stands

Hangzhou is a bicycle-friendly town and features covered stops at street corners so that the bicyclists can get out of the elements while waiting for the light to change.

Bike lane with covered stopping area

I'm starting to get a good feeling for this city and look forward to exploring everything this city has to offer.