Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang, it was once the capital of China for a short period in the Song Dynasty, and is currently one of the cultural capitals of China. The Chinese believe that Hangzhou and Suzhou are proof on earth that heaven exists, largely because of the gardens that define the cities. Hangzhou’s Xi Hu, West Lake, is the largest city park on earth, beginning with the lake into the surrounding mountains filled with temples and pagodas, every place is meticulously manicured. The surrounding city is clean and modern with pockets of old neighborhoods. It also has an extensive university system.
It also has Long Jing green tea, one of China’s most famous teas. Hangzhou is the only major city in China that can claim a famous tea. Tea by in large is produced in the countryside, but Hangzhou has really had a country park feeling for more than a thousand years, and it still does today even though it is always packed with Chinese tourists year round. One Ming emperor used the Grand Canal just so that he could vacation there and caused havoc in the economy because he commanded his subjects to line the canal and sing and dance as he passed down on the massive royal barges to Hangzhou.
Our tea tour visited the Weng Shangyi and his family in Wengjiashan Village on Shifeng (the peak of Lion Mountian). He is 81 years old and has been making Shifeng Longjing since he was fourteen. In fact the name of the village means Weng Family Mountain. It is the highest point on Lion Mountain, and the best area around the West Lake area for growing Longjing. While most of the Hangzhou area is growing the Longjing #54 cultivar because of it’s higher yield, Weng Shangyi still grows the original Wengjiashen local cultivar. We drank some tea, and his family, our old friends made us a great lunch and after we watched him demonstrate the traditional tea making techniques for making Long Jing tea.
We spend the later part of the afternoon going around Xi Hu (West Lake). Even though it was cloudy, it didn’t rain and the light was beautiful. Hangzhou is a photographer’s paradise, not that all of China isn’t a photo rich environment. We finished up with some shopping Wushan Guangchang area, and pick up some celadon pottery, some silk, and some beautiful paper cuttings.
We went to dinner at a friends restaurant that specializes in dishes that come from local organic producers, it was as always feast. They make their own tofu the old fashion way with a grinding stone. We could have just as easy called this a gourmet Chinese food tour. We have never had the same dish twice.