White Snake trail weaves through the classic love stories of ancient China
Chinese social media like Xiaohongshu and Douyin, and a number of Internet influencers have been featuring unique landscapes which blend classic and modern architecture with their natural surroundings. They've become popular locations for photo-ops and urban hikes.
Among them is an elevated trail shuttling through the woods in the West Lake. The trail, which is named White Snake Flying Bridge, is inspired by the legend of the White Snake.
Set in the Song Dynasty (960-1127) the story tells of a young scholar who falls in love with a 1,000-year-old white snake that has transformed into a beautiful woman. However, a monk says it is against nature's laws for humans and spirits to fall in love. The snake is imprisoned for eternity in a pagoda.
The legend has inspired several movies and TV series, among which "The Legend of White Snake" debuted more than 30 years ago and is still broadcast from time to time.
Designed like winding vines, the trail seamlessly integrates into the natural environment. To echo the romantic legend, love-themed poems have been engraved on the slabs, adding a poetic feel to the surroundings.
The trail is a part of the Love Poem Park, which covers an area of 3.6 hectares. Other than the legend of White Snake, the park is also connected to the classic story "The Butterfly Lovers," which took place in Wansong Academy in the park.
In the story "The Butterfly Lovers," which is often described as China's Romeo and Juliet, the two main characters, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, meet at the Wansong Academy as classmates and fall in love.
But Zhu's parents arrange for her to marry a rich man and the heartbroken Liang dies soon after. However, mysterious whirlwinds prevent Zhu's wedding procession and lead her to Liang's grave where the couple's spirits turn into a pair of beautiful butterflies.
A cultural exchange center was also established at the academy under the cooperation of Hangzhou and Verona, where Shakespeare's love story "Romeo and Juliet" took place. It's a bridge linking Italy and China and boosting future exchanges.
The Wansong Academy on the Wansong Ridge enjoys a spectacular view of the West Lake in the north, Qiantang River in the south, and the lush pine trees on the mountain.
With its romantic history and its own serene environment characterized by the hill, trees, bamboo, flowers and rockery, today the academy has become a venue for people to go on blind dates.
The school used to be the Bao'en Temple and was built in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). It developed into a school in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and later became one of the most prestigious schools in Zhejiang Province.
The academy has helped spread Confucianism and is known for its classes by eminent scholars, including Wang Yangming, an idealist neo-Confucian philosopher of the Ming Dynasty, and Qi Zhaonan, a famous geographer of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Like other counterparts in ancient times, Wansong had three major functions – teaching, rituals and collecting books. Every September when a new term starts, a traditional ritual is hosted in the academy. In ancient times, Chinese schools hosted a series of etiquette classes to begin the new term. Wansong Academy has carried on the ritual for centuries to promote Chinese culture and tradition among youth.
At the entrance of the academy, three stone archways display the three historical phases of the school. Wansong (万松), Fuwen (敷文) and Taihe(太和), the three different names of the school from different times are written on the archways.
The three archways are placed in a pattern similar to the Chinese character 品 (pin), which literally means character and morality, to display the academy's expectations.