Venturing Off The-Beaten-Track…

Hangzhou is a popular tourist destination and one that is visited by every nationality, which also accounts for the fact that the city’s most famous tourist attractions are always packed with crowds, especially during the holidays. To experience Hangzhou, peacefully, then it’s advisable to venture off-the-beaten track, and here are eight places to get you started…

No. 1 Mantou Mountain Community (馒头山社区) – Memory of Old Hangzhou

Mantou Mountain Community lies at the foot of Phoenix Mountain (凤凰山) and features a serene and elegant environment. The community is characterized with old-style Hangzhou residential houses, little bamboo chairs lying around in front of the houses and residents sitting on their doorsteps chatting. It really is an ideal place to experience the ‘old’ Hangzhou.

In addition, the community is of strong cultural connotations. Inside the community, there is a national key cultural relics protections unit – Fantain Temple Jingchuang (Jingchuang refers buildings with Buddhism lection and joss), and other worthy-visiting sights such as Shengguo Temple (圣果寺), Laohu (Tiger) Cave Official Kiln old site and Wansong Academy etc.

No. 2 Maojiabu (茅家坞) –  Starting point of Shangxiang (pilgrimage) Ancient Path

Maojiawu is at the middle section of Yanggong Causeway of the West Lake and got its name from the scene that thatches (called mao in Chinese) bestowed the village during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Maojiabu is the starting point of the famous Shangxiang Ancient Path. In olden times, pilgrims who went to Tianzhu and Lingyin to pray, would hire a boat in Hubin and land at Maojiabu Port, where they would burn incense to pray before they headed to Tianzhu Mountain to visit Buddha.

Here, you can stroll through bamboo forests and reeds, or listen to the music played by the breeze in one of the thatched pavilions.

No. 3 Wansong Academy

Wansong Academy
is also called Liangzhu (Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai) Academy and is said to be the place where Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (the hero and heroine from the famous Chinese legend, the Butterfly Lovers) fell in love during their three years of studying together. As Wansong Academy witnessed the love of the Butterfly Lovers, the place has now become a blind date venue, and the annual blind date gathering since 2005 has made Wansong Academy a romantic place rather than a solemn old academy.

Wansong Academy was the largest, oldest and most influential gathering place of talents in Hangzhou in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and its strong cultural atmosphere fills each and every corner. The buildings of the academy are of a wonderful workmanship excelling nature. The architecture here is against a backdrop of hills, forests, ancient vines and peculiar-shaped rocks and is of quaint Ming-Dynasty style with white walls, vermilion columns and black tiles.

No.4 Xiangshan Campus of China Academy of Art

Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, is the most stylish campus in Hangzhou. The whole campus is of a strong artistic influence with well-arranged buildings.

Plain brick walls, stone walls, rammed earth walls, concrete walls … simple masonry construction ways are used in the campus and are applied in different buildings according to the natural environment. The style of these buildings are also different, maze-like teaching buildings, waterside or mountainside buildings covered with giant rooftops, creative high-rises used for office buildings and the library, and the teaching building of Architecture Department is characterized by exposed staircases circling a courtyard.

No. 5 Si Xin Fang (思鑫坊)

Si Xin Fang is one of ten historical blocks in Hangzhou inside which well-preserved old residential houses reside. Si Xin Fang has six lanes, seven villas and over one hundred Sikumen units (a traditional Shanghainese architectural style combining Western and Chinese elements that first appeared in the 1860s). Si Xin Fang is the largest Shikumen architectural complex that still preserves elements such as plain brick walls and engraved door heads.

No. 6 Nine Creeks Meandering through a Misty Forest

If you like to walk, then try Nine Creeks Meandering through a Misty Forest. Nine Creeks Meandering through a Misty Forest, also called Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies, lies at the foot of the western mountain group of the West Lake. The name of “Nine Creeks Meandering through a Misty Forest” stems from the scene of mist and fog rolling up from the forest in nearby Bajue Mountain (八觉山) after rain.

“Nine Creeks Meandering through a Misty Forest” is 5.5 meters long and is flanked by lush green trees and fields of tea gardens. Strolling leisurely along a creek-side path shaded by trees is like walking in a landscape painting.

No. 7 White Pagoda Park

The White Pagoda Park is named after the White Pagoda inside the park. The white pagoda is a national key cultural relic protection unit and was originally built in the late period of Wuyue Kingdom during the Five Dynasties as a terrestrial reference for ships and boats in Qiantang River in ancient times.

In addition, the first railway route of Zhejiang Province also started inside the park. Inside the park traces of the original railway station can be seen via the zigzagging tracks which are covered with grasses with signal lights standing aside. It’s from the park that the first train of Zhejiang set off.

Today, there are two trains inside the park, one for watching and photographing only, and the other for sightseeing. If you want to experience the old-time train, then hop on the steam train and within five to six minutes, the train will take you through the whole park, enjoying the seasonal scenery along the way.

No. 8 Three Temples at Tianzhu

In addition to Lingyin Temple, to pray, local Hangzhou people would also choose Three Temples at Tianzhu. Three Temples at Tianzhu refers to Upper Tianzhu – Faxi Temple (法喜寺), Middle Tianzhu – Fajing Temple (法净寺) and Lower Tianzhu – Fajing Temple (法镜寺). The three temples are situated between Tianzhu Mountain and Lingyin Temple and without a constant stream of tourists, they are ideal places to pray.