Travel Report: Leifeng Pagoda, Hangzhou.
Leifeng Pagoda Hangzhou.
October 2017. Wherever you happen to be on Hangzhou’s West Lake, you simply can’t miss the mystical form of Leifeng Pagoda jutting dramatically out of the greenery. It really does cut a handsome figure, even on a smoggy day like this one. Hence Wonderboy and I decided we would slowly make our way around the lake towards it.
Dating back to AD 977, Leifeng Pagoda is a five story, eight-sided structure said to be the oldest colourful bronze pagoda in China. Naturally it attracts a steady flow of visitors every day of the year. Our visit however was during the chaos of Golden Week, thus we were expecting crowd levels to be nothing short of insane.
Leifeng Pagoda, Hangzhou.
Having queued up for over half an hour just to get our tickets (and that included some cunning queue cutting), we finally joined the throng of visitors heading up to the pagoda’s ground floor entrance.
As is often the way on our adventures, Wonderboy took Leifeng Pagoda’s escalator, while I tackled the unforgiving stone steps head on. Needless to say I was quite out of breath by the time I got to the top!
This shot looks back down at the escalator from Leifeng Pagoda’s second level. It reminds me of just how many people we were dealing with that day. And how high up you have to go just to get to the pagoda’s entrance!
The Legend of the White Snake.
It’s also possible to take an elevator up to Leifeng Pagoda’s 5th floor summit. Indeed there were hundreds of people queuing up to do just that, rather than negotiate the stairs. But in doing so they missed out on the wonderful art exhibition based around Hangzhou’s folk tale The Legend of the White Snake.
Told through a series of stunning woodcarvings, paintings and sculptures, we discovered the ancient love story of a local Hangzhou man Xu Xian and a hypnotic snake lady called Bai Suzhen.
Leifeng Pagoda, Hangzhou.
As cool as the interior was, the highlight of Leifeng Pagoda was of course coming out at the top on the fifth floor for sweeping views across West Lake and the Hangzhou skyline. Once again the smog did its best to dilute the experience, but it was still pretty impressive.
The only difficulty was squeezing into a spot on the balcony to get unencumbered views and take our photos. Nevertheless, we managed to crowbar our way in and grab a rare Leighton-Wonderboy selfie.
Keep your eyes open for West Lake’s famous islands. The one pictured here is known as Three Pools Mirroring The Moon. Getting out to the islands during National Holiday week is a real challenge. In fact, we saw groups of Chinese tourists bickering over limited boats. Not at all put off by the steep 300RMB return price for the privilege.
If you’re in Hangzhou, I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Leifeng Pagoda. Pre COVID-19, it was open daily from 08:00-20:00, with entrance tickets priced at 40RMB.
For more on my time in the city, check out my other articles on Hangzhou.
For more on the region, have a look at my travel reports from around Zhejiang Province.
Like these? Then why not leaf through my many other reports from across China.
I’ve also written a short story series called Challenged in China.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.