Huizhou #2: West Lake Islands and Temples

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Published: October 17th 2023

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I had grand plans of getting up super early and heading out to beat the heat, but of course that didn’t happen. Once I was eventually sorted I headed out for a wander around the lake. First stop was to take some photos of the alley I was staying in. It’s really cute with all the lights, lanterns and murals on the walls. Then down to the lake. I liked the figurines that are there to get your photo taken with. I totally missed them the night before. It was nice to see the lake in the day time. It looked pretty, large and peaceful. Since it was so hot, there weren’t too many people about and those that were by the lake were sheltering under the shade of the trees. The security guard sitting napping under a large umbrella with a room fan plugged into an electrical outlet looked like he had a nice relaxing job. The first place I wanted to visit was Yuanmiao temple, which was a couple of minutes walk away from the lake. The temple has quite a few different names; Tianqing Temple, Chaoyuan Temple, and Kaiyuan Temple. It was established in the Tang Dynasty and

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prospered during the later periods of the Yuan Dynasty. It became one of the most famous Southern Taoist temples in China during that time. Su Dongpo (who I find out more about later) was deported to Huizhou and spent his time hanging out with the Taoist priests from the temple. They used to drink wine, compose poetry and write inscriptions for the lake. Sounds like a pretty good exile. While the temple wasn’t huge, I did love the interior. It felt very traditionally Chinese with red lanterns strung up everywhere. They were hanging from the trees, the eaves, and between the buildings. The temple was immaculate and pretty quiet. A really nice place and I saw a monk or two pottering around. I found a nice quiet nook in the shade of one of the outer buildings and relaxed there for a while with my book.

After a while, I continued on with my walk around West Lake. I had decided to stick to the perimeter as yesterday I had taken some paths that cut across the lake. I saw some people out on pedalos, which looked like fun even if it was a bit too hot. There were

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also a few older people sitting in the covered seating areas that extended out over the water. Huizhou must be a nice place to be retired in as it seems pretty relaxed and peaceful, although I am sure it is a different case when the tourist hordes descend for public holidays. My walk took me away from the more tranquil parts of the lake to near the old city gate, which was by a busy road teeming with traffic. After about ten minutes or so I came to Baihua Island. It was also known as Hua Dun or Hua Island. The island got its name from a verse written by Liang Dingfen during the Qing Dynasty bout the different coloured flowers blooming on the island. The information I read said that the island is a good place to watch the rain from and to listen to its rhythm, while that does sound rather nice, I was glad that it wasn’t raining. I made my way onto the island and had a little walk about. I was a bit surprised to see a very pink building, which I later found out was called Sunglow Shed. I went to the Rain Pavilion

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and sat there for a while, when a woman came over and tried to make conversation with me. It was a nice little spot. I took a quick walk around the island as it isn’t very big and got some lovely views of the lake.

On the next part of my walk I came to Hongmian Island. The information board about this island told me that there were quite a few kapok trees there and they bloom in the spring with bright red flowers, that would have been nice to see. The island was a bit of a strange one as there were a couple of buildings that looked liked they housed a café/restaurant/wedding venue, and there were quite a few cars parked up at the entrance to the island, but everything was closed up. Maybe they are only open on the weekends. I did get some nice views of the lake on my walk around the island. Continuing on, I came to the big red gate that marks the entrance to the West Lake Scenic Area. I really liked the walk down the tree lined (and nicely shaded) path through the middle of the lake. I could see

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that I was quite close to Sizhou Pagoda, which I had seen from various points on my walk around the lake, so headed there. The pagoda was quite nice to see up close, but I really wish that these structures were open to the public as I would have loved to have had a look inside and climb a few floors to see what the views would have been like from a higher vantage point. Gushan Hill was the next major point of interest that I encountered. This is where I learnt more about Su Dongpo as there were a couple of museums about him up there. Su Dongpo was born in Sichuan province and lived from 1037 to 1101. His name means ‘Eastern Hill’. Like most people in Chinese history he has a variety of different names; Su Shi (his real name, I think), style names of Zizhan and Hezhong, and his assumed name of Dongpo. He was a famous poet in the Northern Song Dynasty. He was exiled to Huizhou, I am not sure of the reason for his exile as I could only find it mentioned in one source that he was against the powerful New Policy

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Group, but like I mentioned earlier his exile didn’t seem too bad. While in Huizhou, he facilitated in the development of the area. There was also the tomb of his mistress, Wang Zhaoyuan. If she was anything like her statue, she was a real beauty and he was definitely punching.

I headed back down the hill and came to Junti Temple. I was a bit unsure if this was an actual working temple as the path leading up to it was rather overgrown, the LCD signboards give off the vibe of a business rather than a place for pray and reflection, there seemed to be no one about, and it was next to some kind of military building. Quick check on my map app revealed what it was like inside and that it is a proper temple, so I headed up the steps. I loved all the red strips of cloth lining the staircase. The temple was pretty inside and quiet too. There were a couple of cats chilling in the shade. I had hoped to get some nice views of the lake from this elevated position but there were too many trees in the way. I did like

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the views of the traditional roofs of the temple and the modern buildings just in view in the distance. It made a nice contrast. I headed back down to the lake and got some nice views. I love the mix of the ancient pavilions with the modern mirrored buildings. In my opinion, they don’t clash, but kind of compliment each other and show how things have changed over time. Fengzhu Park was where I came to next. I had a nice walk through the small but perfectly formed park. It was still far too hot though. There was a lovely shaded pavilion and some gorgeous lotus flowers in the park as well as more gorgeous views of the lake. My walk had take me around the lake and nearer to where I was staying so I decided to head back my guesthouse to escape the heat and have some food.

I was pretty thirsty by this point so I had to stop at the shop for some Pocari Sweat. It can be a bit marmite, but I love the stuff and great for rehydrating. Once resting under the air conditioning, I decided I wanted a milk tea before some

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food. I have really gotten out of the habit of ordering milk or fruit teas, which is probably better for my bank balance and waistline. However, since there was an Yi Dian Dian (一点点) fairly close, I ordered a matcha milk tea with boba. I enjoyed the tea as it was cold and refreshing, but if I were to order it again I think I would get some sugar in it as I think it would have tasted better with a hint of sweetness. Now it was time for some food. I was in the mood for little dishes again, as I had really enjoyed them the day before. Today, I opted for another cabbage dish, I had wanted something else, but the restaurant had sold out of it. I also ordered some fish flavoured pork, a firm favourite of mine, and eggplant with minced pork – another classic. The food was delivered fairly quickly and I dug in. The cabbage was still pretty bland but good for the vitamins. The eggplant with minced pork was delicious as always as was the fish flavoured pork, it’s got the right combination of salty and sweet in the sauce and the combination

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of the meat and different veggies is just great. I was definitely in a bit of a food coma after all that.

I headed out again once it got dark and did reserved my steps from earlier. Heading to the pavilions in Fengzhu Park. I’d had a brief look at them the previous evening but from a distance so it was nice to get up closer today and they weren’t too crowded. Everything looks so pretty all lit up. I was too tired to do the whole circle of the lake I had done earlier and there was one place I had missed when walking around, so I headed there to the Zigzag Bridge. The bridge gets it names from the numerous zigzags that it has and would measure 110 metres if it was straight. I liked that the different parts of the bridge were different colours and that the colours kept changing. It was nice to take some pictures of it and also just watch the colours change. Although walking across it and having to keep turning was a bit cumbersome in the heat as it was still ridiculously hot and humid. Time to retreat to the air

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conditioning.






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