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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: July 11, 2011 NO. 28 JULY 14, 2011
Natural Pearl Shines Worldwide
West Lake inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List as cultural landscape

Leifeng Pagoda (CFP)

The natural beauty of the lake has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. Many poems are themed on the lake, and aspects of the lake are also related to some poets, such as Baiti Causeway and Suti Causeway. An exaggerating saying goes if there had not been poet Bai Juyi (772-846) of the Tang Dynasty and another famous poet Su Dongpo (1037-1101) of the Song Dynasty, West Lake may possibly have been merely a lake like thousands of lakes of the same kind but not a scenic spot embodying such great cultural significance. Though the two causeways, built separately under the charge of the two poets, have been restored time and again, they have passed down their ancient beauty dating back to the Tang and Song dynasties. They embody the historic Chinese philosophy that man is an integral part of nature.

West Lake has fully demonstrated oriental landscaping design ideas of poetic charm since the Song Dynasty. In 1982, West Lake was named as a national key scenic resort, and in 1985 it was elected one of China's top 10 national scenic spots.

The UNESCO Committee said the West Lake is an outstanding model of cultural landscape. Through ingenious setting of causeways, isles, pagodas and pavilion bridges, the big lake has formed a large park. It has influenced garden design in other parts of China as well as in East Asia over the centuries, and bears exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition of improving landscape to create a series of vistas reflecting idealized fusion between humans and nature.

The admission of West Lake to the UNESCO list has further enriched the value and types of China's world heritage, said Tong Mingkang, Deputy Director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The distinguishing oriental features of West Lake and the cultural charm and aesthetic value it possesses have also added more oriental charm to the treasure house of world heritage. "That is also why West Lake received the unanimous approval of all 21 UNESCO Committee member states," Tong said.

"The title is an honor, but is also an obligation," Tong added. Protection work is now more important and more urgent.

The protection work of the site had already been underway before the application for admission to the list. Chen Tongbin, a member of the application program team, said more than 500,000 square meters of illegal building around the lake have been removed in recent years, 7,000 citizens have been relocated and more than 1,800 natural scenes have been restored. In 2007, a 67-meter-high building near the lake was demolished because it affected the landscape.

"Protecting the West Lake is an eternal theme and today marks a starting point for Hangzhou to continue the work," said Wang. He believes successful inscription on the list is not the end of the project, but rather the start of efforts for the well-being of later generations.

The West Lake is an organic body that has been living for 2,000 years. "We want to let it live for another 2,000 years," Wang said. Despite its World Heritage status, the lake, including all its scenic spots, would continue to be free to the public.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has suggested the city administration make sure any construction does not extend to hills around the lake as seen from the two causeways and pay attention to growing wear and tear on the site because of the inevitable growth in the number of tourists following the lake's inclusion on the list.

10 Best-Known Scenic Spots of West Lake

- Three Pools Mirroring the Moon

- Spring Dawn at Suti Causeway

- Autumn Moon Over the Clam Lake

- Remnants of Snow at Broken Bridge

- Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow

- Twin Peaks Piercing the Cloud

- Orioles Singing in the Willows

- Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor

- Breeze-Ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden

- Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill

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