Hangzhou’s key attraction is its wonderful West Lake. Every single traveller who visits the city, no matter how many times this might be, will always be moved by the lake’s beauty. If you get informed, the local inhabitants or books will tell you that the most relevant emperors from the Qing Dynasty used to visit the city and refer to its most beautiful landscapes through romantic poems.
Throughout the city’s history, politicians and aristocrats built their mansions on the shore of the lake. Unfortunately, just one of them has survived which is open to the public: Guo’s House.
The house was built in the 19th century by a wealthy silk merchant. It was built following fairly modern concepts which fit beautifully into West Lake’s natural environment. The traditional Chinese concept of consecutive courtyards, varying in number depending on the importance of the families, was transformed in order to put more enphasis on the priviledged location of the villa. This is why two lovely lakes with its dikes can be seen inside, reproducing Lake West’s layout and turning into a continuation of the lake itself.
Whoever visits Guo’s villa may well think that he was not only the owner of the house, but of the lake stretching in the background as well.
The decoration of the dike system is beautiful and concise at the same time. Although all the traditional resources of southern Yangtze gardens are found here- a harmonious combination of water, pavillions, stones and plants- they are not as overdone as in others of the sort. On the contrary, it looks as if it was played down in order to make nature stand out. Just like innocent elements suddenly incorporated into it. As a matter of fact, while other gardens try to recreate nature, this one simply aims to be a continuation of it.
Today it is used as a tearoom. It does not usually have many visitors, Chinese nor foreigners, which makes it an ideal place to take a very needed rest while travelling round such remote areas.