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October 20, 2004 — Day 4

I started the day by taking some pictures of Hangzhou from the hotel window. Following breakfast, we were soon on our way to West Lake. While waiting for our turn to board a boat we were attacked by the inevitable sales-mongers (You dare not stand still.) and some of us soon found ourselves owners of many fine silk (I don't think so.) scarves.

Soon we began our cruise on beautiful West Lake.It is a large freshwater lake surrounded by hills on three sides and the city to the north. Two causeways divide the lake while right in the middle of the lake is the Mid-lake Pavilion, Ruan Gong Mound and the three islets of Lesser Yingzhou. Ancient buildings, sculptures, temples and man-made gardens have been knit into every nook and corner of the natural water surfaces, wooded hills, caves and springs.

We had a pleasant walk back to the bus with a little comic relief from the inevitable persistent sales lady.

Next, the landscape changed as we we travelled to a local tea plantation to watch the world-famous “Dragon Well Tea” being prepared and, of course, have the opportunity to make a purchase. On the way out the "tourist store" offered some unexpected reading material.

To prove our purchase of tea was such a great investment here's the proof (I'm told). Green tea from the Chinese village of Dragon Well (Lung Ching in local parlance), Dragon Well Tea has a distinguished shape. Its leaves are broad and flat, a result of laborious drying. There is something to show for this hard work: Dragon Well tea is refreshingly smooth, sweet and delicate, among the very best of Chinese greens. Our "Dragon Well Requiem" is a First Grade version of this truly sublime tea.

The "well" is an actual spring-fed well (a circular stone enclosure where the water is gathered) with a temple and a teahouse nearby — not far from Hangzhou. Legend has it that during a severe drought a resident monk summoned up a lucky dragon he'd heard was in the neighborhood. He prayed, and lo, the rains came, the crops were saved, and the peasants rejoiced.

The Dragon Well Tea can be divided into four types, namely, "Lion", "Dragon", "Cloud" and "Tiger". Among them, "Lion" is taken as the best. Tea leaves of the Dragon Well Tea is just like a bowl of pins, flat and graceful, smooth and even, fresh yellowish green. When soaked in the teacup, it stands straight high, looking like a flower. Tea has long been grown in hills around the West Lake. In "Classics on Tea" written by Lu Yu of the Tang Dynasty, the first treatise on tea leaf production, the West Lake area was recorded as a tea producing area. In the Song Dynasty, West Lake Dragon Well Tea was presented to the court as tribute.
So there.

We were now on our way to the next adventure.

We arrived at Lingyin Monastery, which was established around 326 AD as the Spirit's Retreat. The main features are underground caves that are decorated with Buddha carvings and the 64 foot-high camphor wood-carved Buddha. Captured by the spirit we must have been in the giving mood. Mary found an opportunity to give away a Canadian pin. Before leaving it was again time to dodge the vendors.

Two new discoveries on our trip back to the hotel were - a wedding car and street tennis.

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