A common Chinese saying about Hangzhou and Suzhou is:
- “Paradise above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below.” (simplified Chinese: 上有天堂, 下有苏杭; traditional Chinese: 上有天堂, 下有蘇杭)
This phrase has a similar meaning to the English phrases “Heaven on Earth”. Marco Polo in his accounts described Suzhou as “the city of the earth” while Hangzhou is “the city of heaven”. The city presented itself as “Paradise on Earth” during the G20 summit held in the city in 2016.
Another popular saying about Hangzhou is:
- “Be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou.” (simplified Chinese: 生在苏州, 活在杭州, 吃在广州, 死在柳州; traditional Chinese: 生在蘇州, 活在杭州, 吃在廣州, 死在柳州)
The meaning here lies in the fact that Suzhou was renowned for its beautiful and highly civilized and educated citizens, Hangzhou for its scenery, Guangzhou for its food, and Liuzhou (of Guangxi) for its wooden coffins which supposedly halted the decay of the body (likely made from the camphor tree).
The native residents of Hangzhou, like those of Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu, speak Hangzhou dialect, which is a Wu dialect. However, Wu Chinese varies throughout the area where it is spoken, hence, Hangzhou’s dialect differs from regions in southern Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu. As the official language defined by China’s central government, Mandarin is the dominant spoken language.
There are several museums located in Hangzhou with regional and national importance. China National Silk Museum (中国丝绸博物馆), located near the West Lake, is one of the first state-level museums in China and the largest silk museum in the world. China National Tea Museum (中国茶叶博物馆) is a national museum with special subjects as tea and its culture. Zhejiang Provincial Museum (浙江博物馆) features collection of integrated human studies, exhibition and research with its over 100,000 collected cultural relics.
Hangzhou’s local cuisine is often considered to be representative of Zhejiang provincial cuisine, which is claimed as one of China’s eight fundamental cuisines. The locally accepted consensus among Hangzhou’s natives defines dishes prepared in this style to be “fresh, tender, soft, and smooth, with a mellow fragrance.”
Dishes such as Pian Er Chuan Noodles (片儿川), West Lake Vinegar Fish (西湖醋鱼), Dongpo Pork (东坡肉), Longjing Shrimp (龙井虾仁), Beggar’s Chicken (叫化鸡), Steamed Rice and Pork Wrapped by Lotus Leaves(荷叶粉蒸肉), Braised Bamboo Shoots (油焖笋), Lotus Root Pudding (藕粉) and Sister Song’s Fish Soup (宋嫂鱼羹) are some of the better-known examples of Hangzhou’s regional cuisine.
There are lots of theaters in Hangzhou showing performance of opera shows. Shaoxing opera, originated from Shengzhou, Zhejiang Province, is the second-largest opera form in China. Also, there are several big shows themed with the history and culture of Hangzhou like Impression West Lake and the Romance of Song Dynasty.
Tea is an important part of Hangzhou’s economy and culture. Hangzhou is best known for originating Longjing, a notable variety of green tea, the most notable type being Xi Hu Long Jing. Known as the best type of Long Jing tea, Xi Hu Long Jing is grown in Longjing village near Xi Hu in Hangzhou, hence its name.
The local government of Hangzhou heavily invests in promoting tourism and the arts, with emphasis placed upon silk production, umbrellas, and Chinese hand-held folding fans.
Scenic places near West Lake
- Jingci Temple is located just south of West Lake.
- Lingyin Temple (Soul’s Retreat) is located about 2 km (1.2 mi) west of West Lake. This is believed
to be the oldest Buddhist temple in the city, which has gone through numerous destruction and reconstruction cycles.
- Baochu Pagoda is located just north of West Lake on Precious Stone Hill (宝石山)
- Yue-Wang Temple (King Yue’s Temple) or Yue Fei Miao is on the northwest shore of West Lake. It was originally constructed in 1221 in memory of General Yue Fei, who lost his life due to political persecution.
- Leifeng Pagoda, located on Sunset Hill south of West Lake.
Other religious buildings
- Liuhe Pagoda or six harmonies pagoda is located on Yuelun Hill on the north bank of Qiantang River
- Confucius Temple
- Chenghuangmiao (City God Pavilion) located on Wushan (Wu Hill)
- Dreaming of the Tiger Spring
- The Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Hangzhou is one of the oldest Catholic churches in China, dating back 400 years to the Ming dynasty.
- Fenghuang Temple (凤凰清真寺) is one of the oldest mosques in China, the current construction at the intersection of Xihu Avenue (西湖大道) and the Central Zhongshan Road (中山中路) dates back 700 years to the Yuan dynasty.
In 1848, during the Qing dynasty, Hangzhou was described as the “stronghold” of Islam in China, the city containing several mosques with Arabic inscriptions. A Hui from Ningbo also told an Englishman that Hanzhou was the “stronghold” of Islam in Zhejiang province, containing multiple mosques, compared to his small congregation of around 30 families in Ningbo for his mosque. Within the city of Hangzhou are two notable mosques: the Great Mosque of Hangzhou and the Phoenix Mosque.
As late as the latter part of the 16th and early 17th centuries, the city was an important center of Chinese Jewry, and may have been the original home of the better-known Kaifeng Jewish community.
There was formerly a Jewish synagogue in Ningbo, as well as one in Hangzhou, but no traces of them are now discoverable, and the only Jews known to exist in China were in Kaifeng.
Two of the Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism were from Hangzhou. There was persecution of Christians in the early 21st century in the city.
Twin towns – Sister cities
Hangzhou is twinned with:
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Fishers, Indiana is in the exploration process of becoming sister cities with Hangzhou.