West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou

 
N30 14 15 E120 8 27
Date of Inscription: 2011
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(vi)
Property : 3,322.88 ha
Buffer zone: 7,270.31 ha
Ref: 1334
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The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands. These additions have been made to improve the landscape west of the city of Hangzhou to the south of the Yangtze river.

The West Lake has influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries and bears an exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of improving landscapes to create a series of vistas reflecting an idealised fusion between humans and nature.

West Lake is surrounded on three sides by ‘cloud-capped hills’ and on the fourth by the city of Hangzhou. Its beauty has been celebrated by writers and artists since the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). In order to make it more beautiful, its islands, causeways and the lower slopes of its hills have been ‘improved’ by the addition of numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees which merge with farmed landscape. The main artificial elements of the lake, two causeways and three islands, were created from repeated dredgings between the 9th and 12th centuries. Since the Southern Song Dynasty (thirteenth century) ten poetically named scenic places have been identified as embodying idealised, classic landscapes – that manifest the perfect fusion between man and nature. West Lake is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape that display with great clarity the ideals of Chinese landscape aesthetics, as expounded by writers and scholars in Tang and Song Dynasties. The landscape of West Lake had a profound impact on the design of gardens not only in China but further afield, where lakes and causeways imitated the harmony and beauty of West Lake. The key components of West Lake still allow it to inspire people to ‘project feelings onto the landscape’. The visual parameters of this vast landscape garden are clearly defined, rising to the ridges of the surrounding hills as viewed from Hangzhou.

Criterion (ii): The improved landscape of West Lake can be seen to reflect Buddhist ideals imported into China from India such as ‘Buddhist peacefulness’ and ‘nature as paintings’, and in turn it had a major influence on landscape design in East Asia. Its causeways, islands, bridges, temples, pagodas and well defined views, were widely copied over China, notably in the summer Palace at Beijing and in Japan. The notion of ten poetically named scenic places persisted for seven centuries all over China and also spread to the Korean peninsula after the 16th century, when Korean intellectuals made visits to the West Lake.

Criterion (iii): The West Lake landscape is an exceptional testimony to the very specific cultural tradition of improving landscapes to create a series of ‘pictures’ that reflect what was seen as a perfect fusion between people and nature, a tradition that evolved in the Tang and Song Dynasties and has continued its relevance to the present day. The ‘improved’ West Lake, with its exceptional array of man-made causeways, islands, bridges, gardens, pagodas and temples, against a backdrop of the wooded hills, can be seen as an entity that manifests this tradition in an outstanding way.

Criterion (vi): The Tang and Song culture of demonstrating harmony between man and nature by improving the landscape to create pictures of great beauty, captured by artists and given names by poets, is highly visible in the West Lake Landscape, with its islands, causeways, temples, pagodas and ornamental planting. The value of that tradition has persisted for seven centuries in West Lake and has spread across China and into Japan and Korea, turning it into a tradition of outstanding significance.

Suggested Bases:

Hangzhou is in Zhejiang Province, China. It is one of the most important tourist cities in China, famous for its natural beauty and historical and cultural heritage. Hangzhou is the political, economic and cultural center of Zhejiang province. It is a prosperous and highly developed city that gets many migrants from poorer provinces coming to seek work. It’s annoyingly humid in summertime, which is from early June to early September. Famed for its natural scenery, Hangzhou and its West Lake have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276. The city’s population is estimated to have been as high as one million in those days, making it the largest city in the world at the time. Even Marco Polo claimed to have passed through, calling it beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world [read more]

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Shanghai is the largest and most developed city in China, the country’s main center for finance and fashion, and one of the world’s most populous and important cities. Shanghai is one of four cities in China that are administered as municipalities at the same level in the hierarchy as provinces. It is not part of any province and there is no government structure at province, prefecture or city level, just a government for Shanghai Municipality and one for each of the 16 districts within it. This is an overview article for the entire municipality. For the central districts which have most of the tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants and nightspots. The municipality covers quite a large area — 6341 km2 or 2,448 square miles — and has a population around 24 million, which is about the same as Australia and more than all but two US states and all but six EU member countries [read more]

 

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