The Rise of West Lake
A Cultural Landmark in the Song Dynasty
- PUBLISHED: April 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, History, Environmental Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 264 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 21 b&w illus., 3 maps, 6 tables
- ISBN: 9780295747101
Lovely West Lake, near scenic Hangzhou on China’s east coast, has been celebrated as a major tourist site since the twelfth century. Now as then, visitors boat to its islands, stroll through its gardens, worship in its temples, and immortalize it in poetry and painting. Hangzhou and West Lake have long served as icons of Chinese landscape appreciation, literary and artistic expression, and tourism.
In the first in-depth English-language study of this picturesque locale, Xiaolin Duan examines the interplay between human enterprise and the natural environment during the Song dynasty (960–1279). After the Song lost north China to the Jurchens and the imperial court fled south, a new capital was established at Hangzhou, making the area the national political and cultural center. West Lake became a model for idealized nature, fashioned by the diverse activities of its visitors. Duan shows how engagements in, on, and around West Lake influenced visitors’ conceptualization of nature and sparked the emergence of the lake as a tourist destination, highlighting how the natural landscape played a role in shaping social and cultural constructs.
Incorporating evidence from miscellanies, local and temple gazetteers, paintings, maps, poems, and anecdotes, The Rise of West Lake explores the complexity of the lake as an interactive site where ecological and economic concerns contended and where spiritual pursuits overlapped with aesthetic ones.
Authors & Contributors
Xiaolin Duan is assistant professor of history at North Carolina State University.
[A]n eminently readable history of place that defies easy categorization with regard to scholarly genre.- Choice
What is most admirable about this book is the accessible manner in which the subject matter is presented. The author effortlessly selects gems of wisdom, grounded in the realities of the place, and presents this to the readers in an easily digestible way...a key reading in the history of tourism and also in tourism geography, particularly for those interested in topics related to China.- Tourism Geographies: An International Journal of Tourism Space, Place and Environment
No western historian has ever been published on the history and impact of sightseeing at West Lake...This book manifests that the history of sightseeing thus foreshadowed the complexity of tourism and preceded West Lake’s intensity of meanings in late imperial China and today.- Chinese Historical Review
The Rise of West Lake: A Cultural Landmark in the Song Dynasty explains the political, commercial, and cultural developments that led to West Lake’s prominence in the gaze of Chinese sightseers for close to a millennium. But the book does more than just recount the emergence of West Lake as a sightseeing destination...The result is a richly textured analysis that has much to offer historians of Middle Period China (800–1440), but is accessible to non-specialists as well.- Journal of Tourism History
Excellent. . . . Duan demonstrates a strong and impressive command of both primary and secondary sources.- James Hargett, author of Jade Mountains and Cinnabar Pools: The History of Travel Literature in Imperial China
A major contribution to the field of China studies in general, Song dynasty studies in particular, and the fields of urban studies, leisure and tourism, place studies, and material and visual culture.- Cong Ellen Zhang, author of Transformative Journeys: Travel and Culture in Song China