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Miss Hangzhou and The West Lake

Hangzhou, May 19, 2013

For the first time on this long journey I have a day off to stop and admire the beauty of China. And I am in the right place, Hangzhou, and at the right time, May when the weather is so accommodating. Drizzling rain now and then, like a pretty lady changing her outfit, only spices up the beauty of Hangzhou. As ancient Chinese people used to put it “Above is Paradise, below is Suzhou and Hangzhou.” Suzhou is definitely my next destination, but for now, I will give Hangzhou my entire presence and appreciation.

Like any other tourist destinations, Hangzhou has a lot to offer. But for a nature and peace lover like myself, the selection is quite simple, the West Lake, Lei Feng Temple where I can have a different view of the West Lake, Longjing Tea Plantation, and of course Zhejiang Museum of Arts.

A famous poet in the Song Dynasty in China, Sushi (and it’s not Japanese sushi) used to compare West Lake to Xishi, one of the four Miss China’s in ancient time. The poem has four verses but the last two verses basically go like this:

One could compare West Lake with Xishi With or without make-up they are both gorgeous

I am fortunate enough to appreciate West Lake at three different times of the day, one late afternoon around 4pm, one late morning around 11AM, and my last one on one with her this morning around 6AM. When Sushi wrote that poem, what he described was the view of West Lake during clear beautiful weather and that amidst the drifting rain.

4PM amidst the drifting rain, West Lake is quite moody. One could only spot a slender, fragile, and graceful shadow of a pretty lady sitting behind a silky white curtain, immersing in herself in a sad love song fanning out from her pipa (琵琶). She would ignore you. She is totally in her own world. And the passer-by would find himself lost. The whole world suddenly turns empty and the moment becomes eternity.

11AM on a clear sunny day, West Lake puts on her best make-up, getting ready to receive her visitors, gentle smiling eyes, majestic posture, subtle shyness as she moves forward. Like a windmill, the visitor’s mind gets all entangled as she approaches. The moment is timeless.

Two encounters, none personal. She is here, yet she is not. One could feel a thousand-mile distance between us. I decided not to give up, so I asked a local what would be the best time for me to visit her. Mr. Wang told me 6AM when the disturbing traffic was still asleep.

6AM on a misty early morning, West Lake quietly sips her greenish Longjing tea from a white pearly cup. No words uttered as I approach and silently sit down next to her. The white silky mist reserves our intimacy. It is the feeling of having a soulmate beside, nothing said yet everything said.

We bid adieu to each other as I leave Hangzhou for Shanghai, knowing I would return one day just for that moment of truth.

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