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A view combining beauty and history

THERE'S a lot more to Hangzhou than a beautiful lake and islands. Fei Lai climbs to a picturesque outlook

Visitors to Hangzhou often look for the perfect view, a place to overlook the famous lake and the city. They need go no further than Wushan Hill, an enchanting spot to the north of the Qiantang River and to the southeast of West Lake.

Stretching into the city's downtown area, it features Chenghuang Tower, an elaborate seven-story traditional tower. On the top of the 69-meter hill, the tower offers stunning views of the lake and the city.

From ancient times, the hill has been endowed with five blessings - blessings of old trees and springs, of strange rocks and stones, of temples and ancestral homes, of customs, of famous historical figures.

In 1985 it was listed as one of the 10 new scenes of the West Lake under the title "Heavenly Wind at Wushan Hill."

Completed in 2000, the Chenghuang Pagoda is a new landmark in Hangzhou and adds to the city's many attractions. Its beauty is said to be comparable to the Huanghe Tower in Wuhan, Hubei Province, the Yueyang Tower in Yueyang, Hunan Province or the Tengwang Pavilion in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province.

Standing 41.6 meters high, the tower covers an area of 3,789 square meters. In the architectural styles of the Southern Song (1127-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties, it showcases local history, culture and customs.

On the first floor, a sculptured relief titled "Folk Picture of Hangzhou in the Southern Song Dynasty" is displayed. It depicts Hangzhou's tourist spots, streets and lanes, the imperial palace and customs during the peak years of the Southern Song Dynasty.

It took thousands of artists two years to complete this huge work in hardwood. Using traditional carving, modeling and weaving, the 31.5-meter-by-3.65-meter work details more than 1,000 buildings and 3,500 figures.

Building a link between the pagoda and the city, the other floors have rooms and spaces so that visitors can take tea, or enjoy folk performances and crafts. The Chenghuang Pagoda which is part of the tower, now has an elevator. But the original bell is still intact and is used.

On the road down the hill you can find the "upper wells with eight holes." Dug in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the wells are 10 meters deep and provide clear water that never dries up.

It has eight holes - four large and four small - as ornamentation. The four large holes in the middle are arranged in a square and the four small holes are on their east and west sides.

The large holes are octagonal and the small holes are pentagonal.

At the bottom of the hill is Hefang Street, a pedestrian mall with souvenir shops, tea houses and restaurants. Visitors can grab a bite to eat and buy some souvenirs to add to their travel experience.


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