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Pristine locale a short hop from modernity

By Raymond Zhou and Shi Xiaofeng | China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-04 09:02

Pristine locale a short hop from modernity

Situated in the western part of Hangzhou, about 5 km from West Lake, Xixi National Wetland Park is a rare urban wetland. [Photo by Qiu Guoqiang/Chen Shoucan/Raymond Zhou/China Daily]

In Goethe's Faust, the protagonist utters his last words: "Stay a while! You are so lovely!" after making a Faustian pact with the Devil, going through a lifetime of experiments and finally finding awe in nature's grandeur.

In 1129, Emperor Gaozong of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) said something very similarwhen he passed a town called Xixi to the north-west of what is currently downtown Hangzhou.

Fleeing from northern invaders, he wanted to make it his new capital, but he was dissuaded from doing so, eventually settling on the strategically important Phoenix Hill instead.

But before departing, he said; "Stay awhile, Xixi!"

Well, the Chinese word is liuxia, a vague term in this context that is subject to different interpretations. It can also mean "Save Xixi for me," implying he could come back some day. No matter how you read it, Faust's line of "You are so lovely" is certainly the Chinese emperor's implication as well.

Xixi, which literally means "west stream", is now Xixi National Wetland Park, a sprawling grid of causeways and waterways that covers 11.5 square kilometers.

It was until recently unknown to most people.

When film star Shu Qi wafts in on a gondola in the 2008 comedy If You Are the One, the wider public was suddenly made aware of Hangzhou's new landmark.

They were amazed that the stunning Xihu, or West Lake, had a sibling, which was not that far from the center of the city, only 6 km from the sky-scrapers of Wulin Gate and 5 km to the lake at the closest point.

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