Why You Need to Include Hangzhou in Your China Photography Tour

China photography tour

Once you announce that you are traveling to China, people often ask if you are going to The Great Wall, Shanghai, or Beijing.

While those are spectacular places, and suburb sites for your China photography tour, don’t limit yourself to just the super well-known.

Hangzhou Needs to be on your China Photography Tour

Hangzhou is not only beautiful but:

  • it is also historically significant,
  • includes a UNESCO site,
  • hosted the G-20 Summit in 2016,
  • will host the 2022 Asia Games, and
  • is home to Alibaba.

Where is Hangzhou?

Hangzhou is the capital (pop. 9.188 million) of the Zhejiang province and only an hour train ride southwest of Shanghai.

Artists of all mediums have come to Hangzhou since the Tang Dynasty (AD 618 – 907) to bask in its culture, landscapes, and enjoy the tea.

Hangzhou sits on one side of West Lake, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, that boasts:

  • natural beauty in waterways, islands, and sloping hills,
  • cultural landmarks of pagodas, temples, and crafted gardens, and
  • man-made creations of islands and causeways.

UNESCO describes West Lake as, “reflecting an idealized fusion between humans and nature.”

What should I photograph in West Lake?

It’s almost as if West Lake was created for photographers. There are actually 10 Scenes of West Lake, created during the Southern Song Dynasty.

  • Spring Dawn at Su Causeway: Go see the peach blossoms at dawn sometime in March or April
  • Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard: Check out lotus flowers in the summer months
  • Autumn Moon over Calm Lake: Head out on a clear night with a full moon
  • Melting Snow on Broken Bridge: Winter is the time, obviously, but snow has been a rarity recently
  • Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows: Get there in the summer before the birds migrate
  • Viewing Fish and Lotus Fronds at Flower Pond: Summer is the best time because the lotus will be in bloom
  • Sunset Glow over Leifeng Pagoda: On a partially (not fully) cloudy evening as the sun sets
  • Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds: Get there in the morning before the mist burns off
  • Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Mountain: Check out the times for the ringing of the Jingxi Temple bells
  • Three Pools Mirroring the Moon: Best seen when the light is changing

Poetic, right?

Regardless of when you go, the sites are breathtaking and can create a wonderful China photography tour in their own right.

What about Performances?

If you are into live action photography, you will want to check out these performances:

West Lake Night

At Dongpo Theater, spectators will learn about local culture through musical and kinesthetic storytelling in five scenes:

  • Soldiers Training from the Wuuye Period
  • Prosperity of Southern Song
  • Romance of Liangzhu
  • Artistic Qiantang
  • Get Together at West Lake

Impression West Lake

  • A love story with lights, music, and dance
  • Open-air venue

If Architecture is Your Delight?

You have thousands of options in the city. Literally.

A good place to visit is Qinghefang Old Street. It is where you will get a feel for life in Old Hangzhou. This historical area is, of course, a tourist draw, but your photographer’s eye will be able to feast on:

  • Ming and Qing dynasty architecture,
  • old alleyways,
  • folk art,
  • 100-year-old shops, and
  • pharmacies that have been treating people for almost two centuries.

As for interiors, you must stop at X Living’s Zhongshuge-Hangzhou Bookstore. Design elements are mind-blowing and create fascinating points-of-views to explore.

In terms of pagoda’s, you will want to capture:

  • The Baochu Pagoda: Seven stories tall, and is surrounded at its base by rocks and trees that shine in the light.
  • The Six Harmonies Pagoda: Thirteen stories (from the outside) and 104 bells that hang on each corner of the eaves.  Inside you’ll find brick-carvings.
  • Leifeng Pagoda: Oldest bronze pagoda in the nation and delivers a glow grand enough to make it one of the Ten Scenes.

Set your Sights on Nearby Water Towns

Water towns are exactly what you’d expect.

Small villages that are situated within a maze of waterways, canals, narrow streets, and bridges. Think Venice and Xochimilco. A China photography tour is incomplete without a visit:

  • Wuxhen is the most developed and therefore one of the most visited, but has done a great job at preserving its historic charm,
  • Xitang has covered walkways along the water and has done well in maintaining a traditional lifestyle, and
  • Nanxun is possibly the most tranquil and least commercial.

Wet your Appetite with Tea

Hangzhou is tea capital in China.

One of the most popular teas in the country is Longjing, or Dragon Well, tea. Plan a visit to Meijiawu Tea Village, which is a Longjing tea plantation near West Lake.

There is also a National Tea Museum that will provide you the context of tea history in the region and the importance of Hangzhou for Chinese tea culture.

A China photography tour without just tea seems incomplete.

Capture Sights Along the Grand Canal

This Grand Canal is worthy of its name.

Formally, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal is the longest canal in the world.

It has existed for over 1400 years as a thoroughfare between northern and southern China. The total length today is 1,115 miles and consists of seven sections.

Photographic Cuisine

Zhejiang cuisine, the region where Hangzhou serves as the capital, is one of China’s eight culinary traditions.

The cuisine features:

  • fresh seafood and freshwater fish often served raw,
  • is generally fairly tame on spice, and
  • is more simply prepared than the cuisine of neighboring Shanghai.

Specific to Hangzhou, you will find more dishes stir-fried and bamboo shoots in over half of all dishes prepared.

And since Hangzhou has experienced great wealth in its history, there is also a wealth of sweet treats. Enjoy tasting and photographing confections with wheat, rice, beans, and sugar.

Who knew a China photography tour could taste so good?!

Conduct Your Hangzhou Photography Tour on a Bike

Hangzhou has one of the largest bike share programs in the world. There are over 3000 stations and over 70,000 bikes. Plus, the first hour is free.

In addition to transportation, seeing so many people using bicycles as their main way of getting around the city and the area of West Lake, can inspire action shots against beautiful scenery.

Final Thoughts

Be sure to spend a least a few days in Hangzhou on your China photography tour in order to explore the architecture, history, landscapes, culture, people, and food!

You’ll be sure to create dynamic shots and breathtaking images.

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