>>>Hangzhou, China's Green City

Hangzhou, China’s Green City

The capital of Zhejiang can (and does) boast that it is the most sustainable city in the Asian giant. And with good reason: its parks and West Lake.
W
ith one of the largest bicycle rental networks in the world, distributed across 2,700 collection points, Hangzhou has the profile of a green city. It is one that puts trees before skyscrapers. This effort has won several international awards (including recognition from the UN) and led to the creation of spaces like the Green Building Museum.
 
The best time to visit the city is in the autumn.

Discovering West Lake

Other than on a bike, the best way to discover the lake is from a wooden boat. When you row under some of its bridges, perhaps you will spot brides and grooms having their pictures taken for their weddings. It is also a star destination for honeymooners.

One of the greatest challenges faced by Hangzhou in leading sustainability is managing the high volume of tourists it receives, 100 million per year. The majority of them are Chinese. Some streets and areas of the city are protected, as is the case with the natural areas on the outskirts. As a result of this and its cultural heritage, Hangzhou is resisting the drive towards development that other Chinese cities have succumbed to. It has managed this to such an extent that it is nicknamed “paradise on Earth”. Marco Polo would certainly agree with that description. His own was not far off it: “the most splendid city in the world”, he proclaimed, on his 12th century visit to the place that is now the capital of Zhejiang. Back then, with 1 million inhabitants, Hangzhou was one of the most densely populated cities on the planet. Its current population (9 million) is no small feat, but is amply surpassed by other nearby metropolises. One example is the 22 million people who reside in the country’s capital, Beijing.
 
The outskirts of Hangzhou are replete with agricultural land.
Photo: Zhao jian kang / Shutterstock.com

Green Gold

In Hangzhou, they make one of the most renowned green teas in China. Longjing tea is harvested by hand and is so highly valued that people have paid up to 10,000 dollars for one kilo.

Less than an hour by plane from Shanghai, on the shores of the Qiantang River, Hangzhou is still one of the most important metropolises in the Republic of China. Its greatest gem is West Lake. In China, more than 30 lakes have the same name, and most of them were “baptised” in honour of the one at Hangzhou. It is a true oasis among skyscrapers. Measuring more than 6 km², it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. It was not considered a lake until the 8th century, when a nearby swamp was drained and several islands and passes were created using the leftover soil. From then, it began to be structured with willow trees and pagodas around its shores.
The city’s gardens have free entry.
Photo: faungg's photos via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA
 
West Lake has been a source of inspiration for Chinese poets. Su Dongpo compared it to a young woman whose dress extolled her beauty. The writer ended up becoming governor and built a bridge named after him, Su. That was in the 11th century. Nearly 1,000 years later, West Lake is a favourite bike-riding location in Hangzhou. The main route traverses the wooded hills to the south of the lake. Another of the most famous two-wheel (motor-free) routes in Hangzhou crosses the tea plantations, which is the main crop grown outside the city. In fact, another treasure for which Hangzhou is best know is its tea. Green tea that is, of course.

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