Hangzhou is a sub-provincial city in the Chinese province called Zhejiang (浙江) and comprises of ten urban districts. It is a large city that occupies 16,596 square km - which could even make it a relatively small-sized country (Slovenia is, for example, not much bigger with its 20,271 square km). The large size comes with a large population too (around 10 million) and a lot of things to see. The mega-city's core area is, luckily, much smaller and distinguishable with its 4,876 square km size, where most of the great attractions are located. The most famous landmark of Hangzhou, without any doubt, is West Lake (西湖). It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011. The lake and its surroundings form an important socialising spot for the locals. ...and that is why I am not going to talk about it here! It is way too touristic.
Instead, I will take you to my favourite place that is also situated within one of the central administrative limits of the mega-city (Shangcheng District 上城) in Yuhuang Shannan Fund Town (玉皇山南基金镇): this is Eight Diagram Field (Baguadian 八卦田). The hill surrounding and dominantly rising above 'the field' on the north-northwestern side is known as Jade Emperor Hill (Yuhuangshan 玉皇山), and the hill that forms the eastern edge is Phoenix Hill (Fenghuang Hill 凤凰山). In this post, these sites will be introduced.
Eight Diagram Field and its surrounding beauty spots are located in between West Lake and the Qiantang River. The best way to get there is to take metro line no.4 to Shuichengqiao (水澄桥) stop and walk from there northerly - Eight Diagram Field is about 10-15 minutes walk from the metro stop.
I originally discovered Eight Diagram Field by just looking at the Hangzhou city map. Even though we are talking about a relatively tiny area compared to the city's size, its unique octagonal (eight-sided) shape sticks out. When I saw it, all I said was “Let's go there!”. It is located just at the southern foot of Jade Emperor Hill between the city's main water flow, Qiantang River, and the number one tourist attraction, West Lake.
Eight Diagram Field has a symmetrical octagonal shape and, thus, is made up of eight 'plots', with a mixture of trees which from above form a 'Yin and Yang' in the middle of it. According to One Word / Nations Online, "the octagonal trigram template is a common symbol for the term Bagua. The template has eight (ba) areas (guas), connecting two neighbouring corners of the octagonal trigram towards the centre to form one gua. The centre contains the yin and yang symbol, or taijitu as per taoist philosophy. Each of the ‘guas’ shows three yao symbols, stretching in three rows from the centre to the outer side. Each single yao symbol (line symbol) is either yin (陰 (阴); representing the receptive (female) force of nature, or yang (陽 (阳); representing the creative (male) force of nature."
At ground level, it is hard to distinguish between the 'guas' and it is also hard - though not impossible - to recognise the octagonal shape. That is why it is a good choice to walk up to the top of the Jade Emperor Hill from where there is a fantastic view over 'the field'. According to sources online, Eight Diagram Field was formerly used for rituals by emperors to pray for good harvest. Today, the 'guas' are used to grow different crops during every season.
Jade Emperor Hill rises 239 meter above sea level and faces the West Lake in the north and Qiantang River (钱塘江) in the south. It is upstanding and towering, it looks almost like a large pyramid. According to the local sources, the top of the hill sits very often in clouds or mist winding around its top, so that is why people call it Jade Emperor Flying Cloud or Mountain of Heavenly Father (玉皇飞云). 'The hill' itself has not only got a fantastic natural environment with dense forests covering its limestone rocks, but right at the centre, there is also a relatively large cave (Zilai Cave 紫来洞) with large caverns, which is able to hold about 200 people. It is a natural cave with stone carvings. The hill has also been home to a number of Taoist and Buddhist temples (such as Fuxingguan right at the top) that also include many beautiful stone carvings. When you enter the Jade Emperor Hill forest park, a ¥10 entrance fee might need to be paid (I have been there a number of times and even though the fee should apply, I have only been charged once so far).
Phoenix Hill (Fenghuang Hill 凤凰山) rises on the right side (easterly) from both Jade Emperor Hill and Eight Diagram Field. It rises up to 178 metres, lies also between West Lake and the Qiantang River, and it forms a connection between Eight Diagram Field and Wu Hill (吴山), where the City God Pavilion (Chenghuang Pavilion 城隍閣) is located. The hill has a series of peaks, many of which give you great views over the central part of Hangzhou. On the top of one of the peaks, there is an outlook pavilion from where you can see another famous landmark and tourist attraction of Hangzhozu: the City God Pavilion. The main peak is located near 'the field', which makes a prominent appearance there with its steep cliff-side. The top of the main peak is flat but covered with trees, so there is not much of a view to enjoy, but it is perfect for an afternoon picnic.
Take in the highlights of beautiful Hangzhou on a private full-day tour from Shanghai. After hotel pickup and transfer by high-speed train to Hangzhou, your private guide takes you to visit city attractions, such as West Lake, Faxi temple. Moreover, enjoy a tasty lunch at a local restaurant before heading to Longjing tea plantation .
Save hours researching attractions and navigating public transport by having a driver to take you to Shanghai's best sites. Highlights include The Yuyuan Garden, taking part in a tea ceremony, a dim sum lunch, visiting the French Concession, and The Bund.