The beauty of Xihu (West Lake) in Hangzhou has captured the hearts of the Chinese for centuries. It was exulted in poems, paintings, love letters and has ingrained in the imagination of the people as the epitome of beauty with an element of romanticism. But Xihu’s fame hasn’t reach international admirers; to put it bluntly, it’s relatively unknown outside of China.
Unfortunately the 2 days that I went to the lake, it was raining. However, under the blanket of fine rain Xihu exuded a kind of ethereal beauty; the misty mountains, blurry silhouettes of boatmen paddling their boat and the swaying willows at the edge of the water, all create images of water-colour paintings so popular in ancient China. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen in my years of travel.
Walking around the lake I stumbled upon many gems, like temples, pagodas, gardens and the scenic causeways where lovers sit on benches overlooking the lake. Boatmen shouted their service at me, while vendors displayed their goods with automated enthusiasm when I walked by. I saw many lovers walking hand-in-hand under umbrellas, young people on bicycle without a care in the world, not even the rain could damper their high spirits, parents shouting at their children, and groups of tourists taking turn to have their photos taken by the lake so that they could show off to their friends and families when they return home.
Even though there are hives of activities around me and I’m in the midst of constant flow of people, I felt strangely alone. Even though I speak Chinese fluently and I have family in Hangzhou, I could not identify with the people around me. Even though I grew up reading comics and story books of Chinese history and legends, I felt that the modern Chinese were not a continuation of the ancient Chinese I read in the pages from my childhood.
Maybe I was judging the Chinese too harshly. Or maybe I was just caught in a moment of loneliness.
Wish u were here,