West Lake Cultural Landscape in Hangzhou – World Cultural Heritage in China

Hangzhou’s West Lake cultural landscape, which includes the West Lake and the hills surrounding it on three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars, and artists since the 9th century. It includes numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental plants, as well as causeways and artificial islands. These additions were made to improve the landscape west of Hangzhou city south of the Yangtze River.

West Lake has influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea for centuries and is an exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of improving the landscape to create a range of vistas. reflects the ideal union between man and nature.

Accreditation year: 2011
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(vi)
Area: 3,322.88 hectares
Buffer zone: 7,270.31 ha

Outstanding global value

West Lake is surrounded on three sides by ‘cloud-covered hills’ and on the fourth side is the city of Hangzhou. Its beauty has been celebrated by writers and artists since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). To make it more beautiful, the islands, causeway and lower slopes of the hills have been ‘improved’ by the addition of many temples, pagodas, communal houses, gardens and ornamental plants combined with the agricultural landscape . The main man-made elements of the lake, two causeways and three islands, were created by repeated dredging between the 9th and 12th centuries. Since the Southern Song Dynasty (13th century) , ten poetically named scenic spots have been identified as the embodiment of classical, idealized landscapes – representing the perfect union between man and nature. West Lake is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape that very clearly embodies the ideals of Chinese landscape aesthetics, as explained by writers and scholars of the Tang and Song dynasties.

The landscape of West Lake has had a profound impact on the design of gardens not only in China but also beyond, where lakes and causeways emulate the harmony and beauty of West Lake. The important components of West Lake still allow it to inspire people to ‘project emotions onto the landscape’. The visual parameters of this vast landscaped garden are well defined, rising to the tops of the surrounding hills when viewed from Hangzhou.

Criterion (ii): The improved landscape of West Lake can be considered to reflect Buddhist ideals imported to China from India such as ‘Buddhist peace’ and ‘pictured nature’ drawing’, and as such it had a major influence on landscape design in East Asia. Causeways, islands, bridges, temples, pagodas and well-defined scenes, have been widely copied throughout China, especially in the Summer Palace in Beijing. and in Japan. The concept of ten poetically named scenic spots persisted for seven centuries throughout China and even spread to the Korean peninsula after the 16th century, when Korean intellectuals visited West Lake.

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Criterion (iii): The landscape of West Lake is an exceptional testimony to a very specific cultural tradition in embellishing the landscape to create a series of ‘paintings’ that reflect what is considered the perfect union between man and nature, a tradition that developed during the Tang and Song dynasties and continues to be relevant today. The ‘improved’ West Lake, with its distinctive array of man-made roads, islands, bridges, gardens, pagodas and temples, against a background of densely wooded hills, can be considered an entity that embodies this tradition in a unique way. prominent way.

Criterion (vi): The Tang and Song cultures express harmony between man and nature by renovating the landscape to create beautiful paintings, recorded by artists and named by poets , which is very evident in the West Lake Landscape, with islands, causeways, communal houses, pagodas and ornamental plants. The value of that tradition has endured for seven centuries in West Lake and has spread throughout China, Japan, and Korea, making it a tradition of outstanding significance.


The property has all the key attributes of Outstanding Universal Value for the lake, its wooded hills on three sides all the way to the horizon and causeways, islands, bridges, Temples, pagodas and ornamental plants make a beautiful landscape in it. are ten famous poetic views. The property’s physical structure and key features are mostly in excellent condition. The Lake itself and the surrounding landscapes, along with its well-maintained scenic spots, historical sites, and sites. No signs of neglect were detected and the degradation processes seemed to be almost completely under control. Therefore, none of the important attributes associated with the Universal Outstanding Value are at stake. The property’s visual integrity is well maintained for the three hillsides, which appear to have been roughly the same over the past 1,000 years. Visibility to the east is susceptible to the further expansion of the city of Hangzhou. However, considering the dramatic urban changes of the city of Hangzhou over the past 10 years, from a regional town to a metropolis of eight million people, the visual integrity of the property to the city side is good management.

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The building’s skyline is subject to strict city regulations that maintain current height and volume limits, and prevent expansions that could affect the West Lake skyline.


West Lake still clearly conveys the idea of ​​a ‘culturally significant lake’, as all the major components created during the Song Dynasty can be clearly read in the landscape, and the beauty of the ten frames Scenes can still be largely easily appreciated. There are many documents documenting the development of the lake (although for some more than others) and they are well kept in official institutions. These records and documents are the basis for determining the authenticity of the property. From the ‘cloud-covered hills’ and lakeside views, to the lone willow trees and the West Lake itself, all reflect elements of the landscape as described in ancient texts from the 20th century. 10th. The view to the east of Hangzhou has changed dramatically over the past fifty years and the lake is no longer closed off on the fourth side by a low lying town related in scale to the overall landscape and beautiful in itself (as described by Marco Polo).

Hangzhou’s tall buildings dominate the view to the east and tend to overwhelm the buildings by the lake. However, the horizon of the hills to the north and south when looking to the east is still intact and Baochu Pagoda can be seen against the sky. It is extremely important that this skyline is maintained and that there is no encroachment of the city behind the hills visible from the lake.

Protection and management requirements

Designated assets are protected at both the national and provincial levels by laws and regulations. These include the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Monuments (national), Regulation on Scenic Areas (national), Regulation on the Conservation and Management of World Cultural Heritage in China (national) and the Hangzhou West Lake Cultural Landscape Conservation and Management Regulation (local). The National West Lake Scenic Area was promulgated in 1982. The Hangzhou City People’s Government’s Specific Control Plan for the Buffer Zone of the Xihu Cultural Landscape, 2010, set limits mechanism for the overall development of Tay Ho national scenic area. city ​​in relation to its potential impact on the West Lake landscape. It is important that these restrictions ensure that there is no encroachment of the city behind the hills visible from the lake and that all related development is subject to a Heritage Impact Assessment with consideration. impact on the properties of Outstanding Universal Value. Management is the overall responsibility of the Hangzhou Cultural Heritage and Gardens Administration with advice from the Zhejiang Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau and the National Bureau of Cultural Heritage Administration (SACH). The government operates as an ‘internal organization’ and a ‘grassroots unit’, with various local organizations and with communities and villages. However, it is necessary to strengthen the community management system and coordinate the interests of the stakeholders. The Hangzhou West Lake Cultural Landscape Conservation and Management Plan (2008-2020) provides the basis for the systematic conservation and management of the property and implements safeguards in compliance with the national standards for World Heritage protection.

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There is also the Master Plan of West Lake Scenic Area, period 2002-2020. To prevent incremental variation that could affect the harmony of the landscape and its key views, an inventory of key visual attributes should be established as a basis for monitoring.

The city government has drawn up nine special plans for scenic areas in West Lake. Other special plans have been prepared such as the Transport Master Plan in Hangzhou’s Xihu Scenic Area, the Comprehensive Plan of Southern Scenic Landscapes of the West Lake in Hangzhou, the Master Plan of the West Lake in Hangzhou. details to control the westward expansion of West Lake, the Beishan History and Culture Street Protection Plan, the Lingyin Scenic Area Control Blueprint and the New Socialist Rural Construction Plan in Hangzhou West Lake Scenic Area.

West Lake is both powerful and vulnerable: it can attract relatively large numbers of visitors, but beyond a certain point, visitor demand and their impact on the landscape can adversely affect authenticity of the property, to the quality of their visits. , and into the expressive power of the landscape. Visitor management should be a high priority over the overall management of the property.

Map of West Lake Cultural Landscape in Hangzhou

Video of West Lake cultural landscape in Hangzhou

See also: UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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