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Day 16 Hangzhou

June 13, 2011

June 11, 2011 (Saturday)

Sixteenth day in China, first day in Hangzhou: 吳山 Wushan, 西湖 West Lake

Got up and washed my clothes. Lots of shops on Hefang street sell tea. I ate a fish with rice for lunch. I bought some sea salt tea at 85 Degrees on the corner and walked down to Wushan Square. A glistening stone path led up into some trees on my left, so I wandered up there amid fragrant greenery, in the light rain. On top of the hill were trees too thick to see Suzhou below and a stone path that took me past guys playing cards and drinking tea to 药王殿 a temple of the “Medicine King.”

I climbed the 城隍阁 Chenghuang Tower, a “pseudo-classical” modern pagoda that houses exhibits about Hangzhou history, and the Hangzhou pavilion from the World Expo, photos of people in Hangzhou in rotating glass boxes with their comments on the other side. On the second floor were (modern) painted wood carvings depicting Hangzhou in the Southern Song dynasty (12th to 13th Century, up to the Mongol invasion), when Hangzhou was the capital of the dynasty, and possibly the most populous city in the world. On the fifth floor I climbed some steep stone steps and saw distant Thunder Peak Pagoda’s silhouette in the mist over the West Lake. The opposite shore was shrouded in fog, and a rain fell over the lake, temple rooftops and trees, and the apartments below.

I walked through Wushan Square down through a gate into the wooded area at the south edge of the lake. I crossed old stone bridges, saw little bits of swampland and stood under a pavilion, watching boats cut slowly across the lake.

Walked northeast along the lake. A stone ledge and no shore to speak of runs along the lake. I crossed a long stone bridge over to 西湖天地 Xihu Tiandi, a bit of land sticking out into the lake full of fancy restaurants. A wedding party was having dinner inside. I saw the statue of the golden ox emerging from the water, as in the legend. I caught a bus back to Wushan Square and went into a food court for dinner.

Hangzhou, by the way, is the home of 許仙 Xu Xian (sometimes 許宣 Xu Xuan) in the 白蛇傳 White Snake Legend. In the earliest written version of the story (17th-Century 白娘子永鎮雷峰塔, in 警世通言 by 馮夢龍 Feng Menglong), he meets a beautiful widow (surname 白 “White”) in the rain on a boat in the West Lake and loans her his umbrella. When he comes to her house to retrieve it, she proposes marriage. She keeps giving him stolen stuff, so he keeps getting arrested and banished, and eventually it’s determined she is really a spiritually cultivated white snake demon in disguise as a human. A Buddhist priest helps Xu Xian capture the demon and imprison her forever under Thunder Peak Pagoda. According to my professor, a crypt was discovered under Thunder Peak when they excavated it before building the modern tower, the crypt contained… nothing.



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