Sunday, June 2, 2019

Hangzhou, a beautiful Elegancy of the World

Hangzhou, a beautiful Elegancy of the World

Venetian merchant and travel adventurer Marco Polo came to China with his father and uncle in 1278. It took 7 years for them to voyage to China.  They stayed in China for 17 years and left in around 1292. It took them 8 years to returned to Italy. Marco stayed in Hangzhou for a year. In his book, ‘Il Milione’ - ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’, he described Hangzhou as the most beautiful elegancy of the world. Somebody asked him, is it so beautiful as you have described? What I wrote is not even the 1/10 of the actual beauty of Hangzhou, he replied. He recorded it the city greater than any in the world as it was a great centre of trade and commerce. Ibn Battuta, Moroccan explorer visited Hangzhau in 1345 described it as the biggest city he had ever seen. He was particularly impressed by the large number of well-crafted and well-painted Chinese wooden ships with colored sails and silk awnings in the canals. Hangzhou was three times a capital of China, one of the seven capitals of China. It is believed that Hangzhou was the largest city in the world from 1180 to 1315 and from 1348 to 1358.

Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province, is the southern terminus of the ancient Grand Canal waterway, which originates in Beijing. It sits at the head of Hangzhou Bay. Its beautiful West Lake (Xihu), is the most popular sight, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrated by poets and artists since 9th Century. It encompasses islands, temples, pavilions, gardens, arched bridges and at southern side the ancient Lyngyin Pagoda. It’s perimeter is 15 km perimeter and the depth is around 1.5 to 2.7, and the Cultural Landscape covers an area of 3,323 hectares. There are two causeway across the lake. Buddhism gift of India to China, the Lotus flowers in the lake blossom in July in pink and white colours. People eat stems of lotus plant as vegetables and use leaves for cooking rice. Though not really broken but the ‘Broken Bridge’ in the middle of the lake is an attraction centre for the tourist. It is in east-west direction, therefore, when the snow melt due to Sunlight from the east, the western part of the bridge remains white with the snow cover, the Sun light creates an illusion of break of the bridge, therefore, called the broken bridge. The walkways were built with the dragged mud of the lake. On walk ways, there are beautiful Sigamo trees, expand their leaves in Summer to provide sheds and drop their leaves in winter to pass Sunshine over the walkers. They make the streets colourful in autumn when the leaves change colours. Adjacent to the lake includes historical pagodas, cultural sites, and hills, including Phoenix Mountain.

There is Buddhist Monastery Lyngyin, founded by an Indian Buddhist Monk Huili (Chinese name) in 328 AD during Eastern Jin Dynasty. It was reconstructed in 975 AD. The entry to the scenic area starts with a screen wall marked with inscription ‘the western heaven is within reach’. Entire area of Lingyin-Feilai is dotted with historic buildings and artwork, including pagodas, statues and centuries old trees. The largest Pagoda located near the entrance at the foot of Feilai Feng (Flying Peak) called Elder Li’s Pagoda houses the ashes of Huili. The peak is made of limestone and as per the legend, was brought from India, flew to Hangzhou overnight as a demonstration of the omnipotence of Buddhist law. In the cave of Bodhisatva Guanyin, one can see from a certain position ‘one thread of heaven’, a silver line of Sunlight comes from the crack of the ceiling upto the surface. Carved in the Song Dynasty (10-13 Century) with a length of 6.7 metres, the grotto contains relief sculptures depicting stories of eminent monks on their pilgrimages to India for Buddhist scriptures. The first features the story of ‘The White Horse Carrying the Buddhist Sutras” of the 1st Century about two Indian monks Matanga and Dharmaratha, the second features the story of Chinese Monk Zhu Shixing travelled to Western Asia in 3ed Century and the third features the pilgrimage of Master Xuanzang in 7th Century for Buddhist scriptures.

In the temple area, the first idol is of Veda the disciple of Buddha, made from one peace of camphor tree. The deity holds the Sword touching to the ground, suggests warm welcome to the temple but indicates no night stay! In the main temple, the 33.6 metre tall Mahavira Hall houses Statue of Shakyamuni (Buddha) carved from camphor wood is the largest wooden Buddhist statue in China. To the right and left of the Buddha four big size idols of four powerful deities of four directions are placed: to the right, east deity for knowledge and south deity for power; to the left west deity for water and north deity for the wind. There are twelve statues of Buddha’s twelve disciples, each representing twelve signs of zodiac and carries symbol of animal one each: horse, monkey, sheep, rooster dog, pig, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, ox, rat. Gyanyin, Bodhisatva Avalokitesvara and Medicine Buddha Bhsisajyaguru are important halls people visit and pray. The Hall of Five Hundred Arhats shaped like a Swastika, houses the bronze statues of 500 arahats, each carry different looks and seated on a unique ornate seat. At the centre, where the arms of the swastika join, stands a bronze canopy housing statues of four bodhisattvas.

And tired of a day walking, the tourists may relax with the on water live action spectacular show of 90 minutes “Enduring Memories of Hangzhou - Impression West Lake”, featuring a symphony orchestra and dazzling natural night scenes. It was firstly performed during the 2016 G20 Hangzhou Summit. The stage is 3 centimeters beneath the lake's surface. Tea-picking girls dressed in traditional folk clothes, dance of picking tea leaves trippingly in the tender night of the West Lake. Swan Lake appearing on the grand stage is an inventive creation. The ethereal ballet dancers and the miraculous projective images will offer a wonderful viewing experience. Unforgettable Jasmine Flower combines the famous Chinese folk song 'Jasmine Flower' with the Italian Puccini's opera 'Turandot', endowing the classical vocal musical with new western elements. When one Moon lit by electricity is in front of you and the real Moon is on the top of the head and a beautiful romantic dance play makes you feel like sitting in a heaven.

After the show, if you search for vegetarian meal, pick up HDL Restaurant for ‘Hotpot’ vegetarian delicious meal. Veggie may enjoy dishes of tofu, mashroom, fungi, soya stripes, corn, potatoes, etc, boiled in plain water or tomato soup. Rice plate with support dishes of peanuts, chilly sauce, fruits and green tea or barley tea make the meal delicious and complete. For non veggie, wider range of dishes are available. And if you are served by a Chinese host, you may taste many dishes as Chinese are known for ordering many dishes presenting their great hospitality. The food waste in Hangzhau alone may be 20 tones a day. Imagine how much they order, how much they eat and how much they waste! The quality of life of an average Chinese is no less than a rich of India in terms of food and clothing. You may pick up souvenir and other from the articles night market street that opens upto 10 pm. After a tired day, Sangrilla may be a Hotel for the VIPs but Hotel like Grand Wyndham can make the night restful.

Initiated by the reformist policies of Deng Xiaoping of 1978, Hangzhou grew very fast in last 25 years taking advantage of being situated in the Yangtze River Delta, now is one of the most populous city with a population of 6.2 million, also known as the city of opportunities. With the rise of the economy, it has created more jobs, increased population of the city. Service/tourism industry became the largest contributor with more number of hotels, restaurants, shops, tourists. There are hotels where the world leaders come, stay and enjoy the scenic beauty and hospitality of Hangzhou. House of Chiang Kai Shek (Premier of Republic of China 1928-45) is now turned into restaurants of famous brands McDonald and KFC. Apart from tourism, the manufacturing units of the goods adds up the GDP. It is emerging technology hub and home to the e-commerce giant Alibaba (Chinese), also hosted the 11th G20 Sumit in 2016. The administration maintained the environment of the city dust free and clean. Roads are regularly washed with guns mounted under the tankers. It will host Asian Games in 2022. If get a chance, do visit the elegancy of the world to enjoy the scenic beauty, historical monuments, show and hospitality of China.

2 June 2019


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