Hangzhou West Lake
Hangzhou’s fame is largely due to the picturesque West Lake.
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Lying in the west of the city, and surrounded by hills on three sides, the West Lake is 3.2 kilometers from north to south and 2.8 kilometers from east to west with a circumference of 15 kilometers. Its water surface encompasses 5.8 square kilometers, while the islands on the Lake occupy 6.3 square kilometers. Its average depth of water is 1.55 meters, the shallowest is less than one meter deep, and the deepest being about 2.8 meters. Its storage capacity is between 8.5 million and 8.7 million cubic meters. The Su and Bai Causeways, both man-made, divide the Lake into five separate lakes: the Outer Lake, the North Inner Lake, the West Inner Lake, the Yue Lake, and the Lesser South Lake. There are scenes everywhere in around the West Lake, Apart from the ten scenic spots of Qian-Tang, eighteen attractions of the West Lake, the top ten famed attractions designated during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) are as follows: Spring Dawn at Su Causeway (the Su Dyke Enveloped in Morning Mist) 苏堤春晓Autumn Moon Over the Clam Lake 平湖秋月,Lotus in the Breeze at the Crooked Courtyard (a lotus spectacle at Quyuan) 曲院风荷, Three Pools Reflecting the Moon 三潭印月, Watching Goldfish in a Flowery Pond (Viewing Fish at Huagang Pond) 花港观鱼 Orioles Singing in the Willows 柳浪闻莺, Snow Scene on the Broken Bridge断桥残雪 (the Broken Bridge Cocooned under a Snow Mantle), Double Peaks Kissing the Sky 双峰插云, Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping 南屏晚钟, and the Lei Feng Pagoda in the Glow of the Setting Sun 雷锋夕照. Incidentally, China boasts as many as 36 west lakes, and the one in Hangzhou undoubtedly exceeds all its counterparts. Deep-forested hills embrace the Lake on three sides resembling an amphitheatre except the east side where the downtown area is located. It is not hard to find peace and contentment around this beautiful lake, where nature goes through an amazing repertoire of changing moods that turn the picturesque waterways into shimmering avenues of enchantment. The climate is mild all the year round, so it is with joy that tourists come here to forget the hustle and bustle of the city. The splendid views along the lake, running from the east to west, are a never-ending delight for tourists. It is hardly surprising that tourists flock to the West Lake all the year round to enjoy the glorious scenery and warm sunny days. A 1,300-meter-long cross Lake underwater tunnel was opened to the public on October1, 2003.
The picturesque West Lake is well matched with the emerald surrounding hills where the Tiger Spring, the Dragon Well, the Jade Spring, the Rosy Clouds Cave, the Yellow Dragon Cave, the Lingyin (Soul’s Retreat) Temple, and the Nine Brooks and Eighteen Dales can be found. Such scenic spots can still be found in Hangzhou area by going off the beaten track. There are many beautiful spots that don’t get mentioned in books because they offer no exceptional sights or attractions. And that is part of what makes them special. A trip out to such a spot is very rewarding, and a meditative summer picnic on the green will provide an oasis of tranquility in hectic day.
Autumn Moon Over the Calm Lake lies at the southeastern foot of the Solitary Hill. Built 300 years ago, the park is colourful with painted pavilions, Azigzag bridge leads to a stone platform almost level with the water, providing a view as though the tourist were standing on the water—quite enchanting particularly with the moon shining on its shimmering water surface. Flowers are in bloom all the year round on the Solitary Hill. Crane Pavilion at the foot of the hill is lovely in spring with plum blossoms, It is said that in the tenth century There was a celebrated poet by the name of Lin Hejing who expressed his contempt for the corrupt officials by secluding himself on the hill while composing poetry, painting, cultivating plum trees, and raising a pair of cranes. When he passed away, all 360 of his cultivated plum trees withered and his two white cranes died, presumably of grief. Local people buried the cranes beside Lin’s tomb and erected the Crane Pavilion. They also planted many more plum trees on the hill in his memory.
The site of the Xiling Seal-Engravers’ Society at the western foot of the Solitary Hill has noteworthy features. There are springs, ancient trees, bamboo groves, white magnolias, and red camellias as well, In 1903, the painter and engraver of noted Wu Changshuo, and some friends established an art group specializing in the study of stone seal engraving, calling the Xiling Seal-Engravers’ Society. The origin of seal-engraving art dates back more than 3,000 years. As early as in Neolithic times, people began to stamp designs on earthenware, the most primitive known form of seal engraving. Qinshihuang, first emperor of the Qin Dynasty who unified China in 221 BC, began using seals as symbols of imperial authority. One of his seals, made of fine jade with a knob in the form of a dragon, bore the inscription: “The emperor glorious and long-lived, the recipient of heaven’s command.” In the fourteenth century, a famous Ming-dynasty painter Wang Mian introduced stone into seal engraving since it is much easier to carve than metal or jade. Artists started designing and engraving seals themselves and the craft gradually developed into an art form. Through the years and years, many handicrafts were taken over by machines. However, seals are still made by hand. A machine cannot produce them. They have to be carved word by word. It is a three-in-one creation, meaning a combination of calligraphy, designing the word in a very limited space, and carving technique. Calligraphy style is the foundation of seal engraving. The scripts used for chops are often archaic, dating from the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). They are far different from contemporary handwriting. As for designing, it is something like the work of a painter and a general. Like a painter, you must strange the characters, sometimes dozens on a space smaller than a matchbox, in a way that is beautiful and pleasing to the eye. Like a general with his soldiers you have to get your characters in order and make them look like a unit. In addition to name chops, people engrave famous poems, popular slogans, and sometimes words of noted persons. This ancient art form is as popular as ever in China now. The new generation of carvers will do even better work than their predecessors.
Many Chinese artists have long regarded seal engraving as the best incarnation of the spirit of the Chinese culture. They believe that such a rich culture can be embodied in the space of less than a square inch.
Seal engraving is an integration of limitation and infinity. Its physical space and spiritual content are not totally proportional. Its artistic language and means are very delicate, and abstruse. Under the engraving knives of outstanding seal cutters, points, lines, raises, concavity, scarcity, density, punching, and cutting have all become demonstrative elements in highly abstract terms.
Originally, a seal used to be the symbol of power, status and order of feudal societies in China. For instance, Su Qin 苏秦 (?-284 BC), an outstanding statesman during the Warring States period (475-221 BC) was once in charge of the seals of the prime minister of the six states. Historians deem them as the highest achievements of the statesman in his political career. However, through a long history of development, people began to pay more attention to the aesthetic values of seals and such carving has eventually evolved into a type of pure art in China.
Today, the art of seal engraving has not only become more and more popular among the Chinese people, but has also spread to Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States.