I just got back from the lake. [note: I got back from the lake last night, but was too tired to finish this entry at that time] It’s not often you find a place in China that is quiet, nearly deserted, with an abundance of fresh air. But, Hangzhou has lots of those places, especially at night. It’s refreshing not to have to worry about being mown down by swarms of electric bikes, or accosted by aggressive street vendors selling cheap watches. We’ve been here for two days now. Our hostel is just across the street from West Lake, which has been meticulously preserved and protected in a startlingly un-Chinese way. The lake is round, about 3km in diameter. The entire thing is ringed with parkland, old-growth forest, and historic sites, much of which is free of charge to access. I have to say that the extra oxygen in the air has given me a boost of energy. Hangzhou is not all like this though. Outside of this West Lake Scenic area, where the majority of Hangzhou’s population of 6.4 million lives, the city appears to be made of equal parts concrete and dirt.

We’ve spent most of our two days here walking around the lake, and eating. One of the local specialties is Dongpo Pork, which is a chunk of fatty pork that’s steamed in a delicious brown sauce. It’s said to have been invented 900 years ago by the governor Su Dongpo, to reward workers who dredged the lake to create the Su Causeway, a 3km-long land bridge that bisects the lake. We also ate at a Brazilian barbeque place, which was an interesting experience. It’s the same as the Brazilian barbeque at home, except the buffet consisted of Chinese items like taro cakes and pickled cuttlefish. I suppose it’s like finding roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and french fries in the buffet at the Mandarin.

We visited the memorial and tomb of Yue Fei, who was a Song Dynasty general particularly famous for his loyalty to his country. He was falsely accused of treason, and was beheaded by the emperor. Yue Fei’s son had his limbs and head tied to five horses, who ran in different directions and tore him to shreds. Shortly after this, the emperor realized the mistake, punished Yue Fei’s treacherous accusers, and then built an enormous memorial in Yue Fei’s honor. If you ask me, too little too late.

I took some night photos at the lake side on the first night. My favorite time to take night photos is when there appears to be no light at all. I make it my mission to capture those sparse photons that come from whatever illumination is available, even if it’s something as faint as street lights reflected off of low clouds. The night photos below were captured in nearly complete darkness using 20-30 second exposures.

This morning we’re taking a train to Nanjing, which is the site of a famous massacre called “The Rape of Nanjing.” Apparently the museum is pretty gruesome. Some 300,000 – 400,000 Chinese were slaughtered by Japanese troops who were invading the country in the 1930s. 20,000 women were raped and then killed. It’ll likely be a strong contrast to Hangzhou’s beauty…

WordPress refuses to sort my photos by date/time, so the gallery is a bit mixed up. I hope the descriptions help make sense of the mess though.

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