Marco Polo wrote, “It is without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world.”

Huangzhou is considered one of the most beautiful cities in China. In 1127, the Song Dynasty made the city their capital after losing northern China to the Jin Dynasty.

“Spring Day on West Lake” by Ouyang Xiu (1007 – 1072 AD)

“The lovely Spring breeze has come
Back to the Lake of the West
The Spring waters are so clear and
Green they might be freshly painted.
The clouds of perfume are sweeter
Than can be imagined. In the
Gentle East wind the petals
Fall like grains of rice.”

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

The city of Huangzhou (developed in the 4th and 5th centuries CE) is about a hundred miles or 161 kilometers from Shanghai. I’ve visited this city several times. My last trip was in 2008.

The city has one of the largest bike sharing projects in the world and one of the most successful. Launched in 2008, the city of Huangzhou provides 50,000 free bicycles at 2,000 bike stops across the city, and in July 2012 a paper was published on the Clean Air Action Planning in Chinese Cities: Hangzhou and Jinan Cases.

Li Zhi Hong of Hangzhou Public Transport says the city wanted to encourage citizens to leave their cars and use more public transportation. The bicycles allowed people to take that final kilometer from the bus station to their destination.

The bikes are also great for tourism.

Hangzhou’s architecture and gardens are renowned, and it is situated among hills and valleys in which some of the most famous monasteries in China are located.

Huangzhou, also known as the Westlake, has been one of the more environmentally conscious cities in China. For instance, the city’s government made space to build parks alongside the rapid development and modernization. That’s why Huangzhou has remained picturesque unlike many other cities in China where concrete has taken over.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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