"Ripping water shimmering on sunny day,
Misty mountains shrouded the rain;
Plain or gaily decked out like Xizi;
West Lake is always alluring."
These are the words composed by the famous Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo (960-1127) when he compared the West Lake to Xi Zi, the most beautiful woman in ancient China. These poetic sentiments leave one in no doubt of the glory of the scenery that inspired them.
Originally a shallow sea inlet, due to the laying down of silt this 5.68 square kilometers (about 1,404 acres) of water became the famous West Lake. With an average depth of just five feet the lake comprises five distinct sections. The largest part is known as the Outer Lake and it is bounded by the North Inner Lake, Yuehu Lake, West Inner Lake and Lesser South Lake. Held in the embrace of hilly peaks on three sides, this water wonderland has been an attraction for centuries and it is small wonder that it was a favourite imperial retreat. The lake and its environs have all the elements of a traditional Chinese garden but on a grand scale.
The natural setting of strangely shaped peaks, serene forests and springs, dense foliage and a myriad of blossoms especially in springtime are enhanced by a treasury of sculpture and architectural features. Whatever the season, the panorama is pleasing to the eye and the nuances of light shade together with the moods of the weather present an ever-changing picture that justifiably has been described as 'intoxicating'.