West Lake, East China, China

Lake Locations:

China - East China -

Also known as:  Qiantang Lake,Outer West Lake, West Inner Lake, North Inner Lake, Little South Lake, Yue Lake

One of the most beautiful engineered environments in China is West Lake. Originally a spring-fed bay on the Qiantang River, the lake was formed about 2000 years ago when silting dammed off the lake from the river itself. A series of improvements for irrigation purposes and for aesthetic value over hundreds of years enlarged the lake and made it the inspiring landscape it has become today. During the Tang Dynasty, dikes were built to keep the lake from drying up and provide irrigation water. The influence of the Buddhist religion and the Buddhist principle of ‘nature as paintings’ inspired successive leaders to add features to improve views and enhance the tranquil experience for lake visitors.

In search of this perfection, the lake was steadily enlarged, causeways built with many picturesque bridges, islands constructed, and the observer’s eye directed to carefully selected views. The lake now covers over 1,600 acres and is divided by causeways into five lakes: Outer West Lake, West Inner Lake, North Inner Lake, Little South Lake and Yue Lake. The lake with its many temples, historic buildings, and mountainous horizon on three sides is so attractive that it was designated a World Heritage Cultural Site in 2011.

West Lake forms the western border of the City of Hangzhou, becoming both a focal point and center of culture. The lake includes two causeways, three islands, numerous temples, pavilions, pagodas, gardens and ornamental trees, all of which are encompassed within the National West Lake Scenic Area. This is a fitting designation for an area that has inspired water landscapes and garden design throughout China, Japan, Korea and India for centuries.

Ten ‘scenic views’ are named in lake descriptions, including Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill, Twin Peaks Piercing Clouds, Sunset Glow Over Leifeng Pagoda, Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor, Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows, Melting Snow on the Broken Bridge, Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake, Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard, and Spring Dawn on the Su Causeway. The views describe the beauty found at West Lake during all seasons: lotus blooming in summer, plum trees blossoming in winter, and snow covering the hills, wharves and temples around the shoreline. Walking paths encircle the lake, so visitors can experience sunrises and sunsets.

Hangzhou residents regularly visit the lake, often in the evening to watch a short musical fountain display at dusk and to stroll the lakefront paths. Small boats offer cruises, with the boats built in different historical styles. These boatmen also take passengers out for fishing trips; restaurants near the shore will prepare the catch of crabs and small fish for dinner. First-time visitors may be overwhelmed by the number of museums and garden spots vying for their attention. At least four museums displaying artifacts from China’s ancient culture are located along the shoreline. The China National Silk Museum graces the lakefront, providing examples of past and current practices in the manufacture of silk, the history of the Silk Road, and housing several silk shops nearby where visitors can buy silks and finished silk garments.

Also found on the shore of West Lake is the National Tea Museum. Tea was developed in China over several thousand years and is imbued with a rich culture of tea ceremonies and practices. Besides the history of tea, experts on-site demonstrate different tea ceremonies, rituals and protocols and provide visitors with a cup of traditionally-brewed tea. The Southern Song Dynasty Guan Kiln Museum near the south shore is the first museum in China dedicated solely to displaying ceramic wares and the history of such ceramic works in China. Part of the museum features the archeological ruins of one of China’s earliest ceramics factories.

Atlso at West Lake is the Hangzhou Botanical Garden with over 320 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens set amid parklands. The Gardens are also a research station where plant studies are conducted and over 150 varieties of bamboo are on display. If visitors still feel the need for more museums, the Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum is located in Hangzhou a short distance away. Traditional medicine practitioners here even operate a clinic using traditional Chinese medicine, and a restaurant on-site prepares special dietary meals using prescribed herbs and cooking methods.

The Xixi Wetland Park is about three miles away from West Lake. Visitors take motorized boats to various points where they can disembark and take photographs or walk paved paths and boardwalks past lotus ponds, tall reeds, and thickets of peach blossom trees. The nearly 3000-acre nature reserve serves as a pristine haven for wildlife, a cool respite on a hot summer day, and shelters more than 80 kinds of birds, including aigrettes, cuckoos, warblers, and magpies.

The park has become more famous after being featured in the popular Chinese film, “If You Are The One”. Visitors can re-create a scene from the movie by being served tea in a row boat. Boatmen also take tourists net fishing. Both West Lake and Xixi Wetland Park showcase China’s growing efforts at environmental conservation. West Lake has been dredged several times in the past, and now efforts are geared toward preventing the silting problems before they occur. The World Heritage Cultural Site of over 8200 acres has a buffer zone encompassing nearly 18,000 acres, assuring the ‘nature as pictures’ views won’t be spoiled by encroachment.

Hangzhou is a vibrant city filled with both traditional Chinese culture and modern amenities. Literally hundreds of hotels are available as lodgings. Most first-time visitors schedule a guest house or inn through a knowledgeable travel agent. To see everything Hangzhou has to offer would take several days. There are traditional Chinese theaters, plenty of nightclubs, and a wide variety of shopping venues with goods produced both locally and from around the world. Hangzhou has its own distinctive cuisine, known throughout the epicurean world. There are any number of restaurants serving Hangzhou specialties, and several ‘food streets’ throughout the city sell food from venders or in tiny cafes. Visitors can get around by bus, taxi, ferry and a limited subway system, but many travel via bicycle. Most tours of China’s East Coast include a stop at Hangzhou and West Lake, but to actually enjoy all this unique area has to offer, one needs to spend several days. This is definitely a ‘bucket-list’ destination.

Things to do at West Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Ruins
  • Shopping

West Lake Photo Gallery

West Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 1,608 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 33 feet

Average Depth: 10 feet

Water Volume: 11,585 acre-feet

At LakeLubbers.com, we strive to keep our information as accurate and up-to-date as possible, but if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you!
Please let us know about it on our Content Correction form.

Spread the word! Share our West Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.