CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 28, December 2011


West Lake: a Chronology (1912-1949) | China Heritage Quarterly

West Lake: a Chronology (1912-1949)

This outline chronology offers an overview of the history of West Lake and Hangzhou from 1911 until the final retreat of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government to Taiwan in 1949. It also notes dates, events and historical figures that feature in this issue of China Heritage Quarterly. Links to the relevant items (marked [⇒]) are provided throughout the text. Click here to see the full chronology.—The Editor

Republic of China 中華民國 (1911-49)

The Manchu-led Qing rulers had occupied a large tract of land between the city of Hangzhou itself and West Lake. This privileged area, the Banner Garrison, was one of the first things to be demolished following the end of the last dynasty.

During the 1910s, whilst Hangzhou's importance as a manufacturing and handicrafts centre suffers a precipitous decline, mainly at the expense of a rapidly growing Shanghai, it begins to develop as 'cultural garden' tourist site for the burgeoning middle class of that port city. On West Lake the prominent Qing general Peng Yulin's (彭玉鱗, 1816-90) villa, Tuisheng Retreat 退省庵, for example, is converted from being a memorial temple dedicated to his memory to become the Shrine of Former Worthies (Xianxian Ci 先賢祠), honoring three Han scholars of Zhejiang: two Ming loyalists and another who resigned from his Qing government post to live as a hermit on West Lake

15 January 1912, over ten thousand people gather in Hangzhou to celebrate the founding of the Republic of China

12 February, the former Qing imperial detached palace is nationalized and becomes a venue for public events

19 July, a ceremony is held to commemorate the martyr Qiu Jin at Phoenix Forest Temple (Fenglin Si 鳳林寺)

22 July, work begins on demolishing the old city wall

9-13 December, Sun Yat-sen travels to Hangzhou and pays his respects at the tomb of Qiu Jin, a compound that includes the Pavilion of Wind and Rain (Fengyu Ting 風雨亭), a reference to her famous line of poetry. After acknowledging her contribution to the revolution as a 'female hero' (jinguo yingxiong 巾幗英雄), Sun visits other sites on and around the Lake. The following day he has lunch at the Louwai Lou 樓外樓 restaurant on Solitary Island. This same month the Zhejiang Public Library is established on Solitary Island and the Emperor's Four Treasuries is removed from the Wenyuan Pavilion and lodged there

April 1913, Sun Yat-sen visits West Lake

10 September, Tides of Hangzhou (Zhejiang Chao 浙江潮) is published. This month a telephone company starts operations

1914, the cultural activist and educator Huang Yanpei (黄炎培, 1878-1965) visits the Lake and makes a series of photographs published the following year [⇒]. Also in 1914, the new market is opened on the grounds of what was the Bannermen Battalion [⇒]

1915, Scenic China Series No.4: West Lake, Hangchow (Zhongguo mingsheng 4: Xihu 中國名勝西湖) edited by Huang Yanpei appears in three volumes through Commercial Press in Shanghai [⇒]. This same year Feng Zikai (豐子愷, 1898-1975) starts his studies at Zhejiang First Normal College and is instructed in art by Li Shutong (李叔同, 1880-1942), later the Dharma Master Hongyi 弘一法師 [⇒]

16-20 August 1916, Sun Yat-sen visits West Lake in the company of his wife Soong Ch'ing-ling and others. The constitutional monarchist Kang Youwei (康有為), on hearing that the revolutionary Sun is coming flees his residence at Jiaoshi Villa (蕉石山莊, part of the Liu Villa 劉莊 complex that Mao Zedong will later occupy). During his tour, Sun is unstinting in his praise of the Lake ('西湖之風景為世界所無 , 妙在大小適中。若瑞士之湖嫌其過大 , 令人望洋興嘆 ; 日本之蘆之湖則又嫌其過小 , 令人一覽無余。唯西湖則無此病 , 誠為國寶 , 當益加以人工之整理 , 使世界之遊客皆來觀賞其真價'). On 18 August he returns to Qiu Jin's tomb and recalls her famous poetic envoi. He has lunch at the Pavilion of Wind and Rain, enjoying the now-famous dishes 'West Lake vinegary fish' (Xihu cuyu 西湖醋魚) and soup with chun leaves (chuncai tang 蒓菜湯) and He also goes to see the tidal bore of the Qiantang River at Liuhe Pagoda (Liuhe Ta (六和塔) during which he lauds the immortal spirit of the loyal minister Wu Zixu (伍子胥, d.484BCE) whom he calls a patriot

January 1917, a warlord leader takes control of Hangzhou and orders a modern road be built for his car and increasing traffic. Thirteen roads are constructed between 1917-19

January 1918, work starts on the first road around West Lake, including the Su and Bao causeways

January 1919, John Leighton Stuart is appointed the head of the new Yenching University (Yenching daxue 燕京大學), which combines three colleges. The campus of the new institution is built on the remains of princely gardens to the south of the Garden of Perfect Brightness and the layout of its gardens, in particular No Name Lake (Weiming Hu 未名湖) is said to be partly inspired by West Lake

April, Jing Hengyi (經亨頤, zi Ziyuan 子淵, 1877-1939), principal of Zhejiang First Normal College founds Tides in Education (Jiaoyu Chao 教育潮) as nationwide student agitation (later known as the May Fourth Movement) is ignited by demonstrations in Beijing against imperialism and traditional authority. The magazine is suppressed by the provincial authorities for its radicalism in January 1920 [⇒]

12 May, an estimated three thousand students gather on the shore of West Lake to demonstrate in support of the student in Beijing

28 September, students boycott the celebrations of the birthday of Confucius and take to West Lake to visit the grave of the anarchist Liu Shifu (劉師復, 1884-1915) at the Grotto of Misty Dusk (Yanxia Dong 煙霞洞) instead. The 'rites controversy' of this period leads to an open confrontation between radical educators and students and the local authorities. In a student publication, Zhejiang New Tide Weekly (Zhejiang xinchao 浙江新潮), a call is issued to 'abandon filial piety' (feixiao 廢孝) and Confucian hierarchies in everyday life

26 December, Zhejiang New Tide Weekly is forcibly closed by the authorities [⇒]

1 January 1920, Qian River Review (Qian Jiang Pinglun 錢江評論), a progressive publication, is founded

10 July, construction work on a permanent lakeside road begins and the arched stone bridges on the causeways are replaced

August 1922, the newly founded Chinese Communist Party holds a special gathering known as the 'Hangzhou Meeting' (Hangzhou huiyi 杭州會議) which leads to the first collaboration between the Communists and Nationalists

September, the first Communist Party cell is established in Hangzhou

1924, Wu Song's Tomb (Wu Song mu 武松墓) constructed to commemorate the fictitious hero Wu Song from the late-Ming novel Water Margin (Shuihu Zhuan 水滸傳) is constructed on the northwest side of the Xiling Bridge (Xiling Qiao 西泠橋) leading to Solitary Island not far from the tomb of the courtesan Su Xiaoxiao dating from 1780

Fig.1 A view over the Lake from the Hupan Ju 湖畔居 teahouse. (Photograph: GRB)

14-16 April 1924, the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore visits West Lake and addresses a public gathering

1:00pm, 25 September, Thunder Peak Pagoda collapses, shortly thereafter Lu Xun (鲁迅, penname of Zhou Shuren 周樹人, 1881-1936) published two highly influential essays on the subject. In the second of these he lambasts what he calls the 'ten-sight disease' (shi jing bing 十景病), an expression he uses to characterize a particularly opportunistic and uncreative approach to the world [⇒]

12 April 1925, 60,000 people gather at the Public Sports Ground to mourn the passing of Sun Yat-sen

1927, the imperial garden and former detached palace on Solitary Island is renamed Zhongshan Park to commemorate Sun Yat-sen

December, the Nationalist President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek, and his First Lady, Soong Mei-ling, spend their honeymoon on West Lake at Cheng Villa (Cheng Lu 澄廬) on Nanshan Road. The building was a wedding gift from Sheng Enyi 盛恩頤, fourth son of the famous industrialist and political figure Sheng Xuanhuai (盛宣懷, 1844-1916). Also during 1927, the Anhui tea merchant and owner of the Wang Yutai Tea Shop (Wang Yutai Chazhuang 汪裕泰茶莊) Wang Tiyu 汪惕予 builds what becomes known as Wang Villa (Wang Zhuang 汪莊) on the southern shore of West Lake at the foot of the hill where the Thunder Peak Pagoda stood

26 January 1928, the artist Lin Fengmen (林風眠, 1900-91) establishes the National Art School (Guoli Yishu Yuan 國立藝術院) at the Luo Garden on Solitary Island (Gu Shan Luo Yuan 孤山羅苑) [⇒]

10 October, the Zhejiang Wireless Station starts broadcasting

6 June-20 October 1929, the West Lake Exposition (西湖博覽會) is held, the main site of the Expo is located on the North Inner Lake of West Lake (Xihu Bei Lihu 西湖北里湖). Various dignitaries from the new Nationalist government in Nanjing attend the opening ceremony. A seaplane from Shanghai scatters pamphlets advertising the Expo over the city and utilises the Lake as a runway. During the four months of the Expo, over two million people visit the eight Expo pavilions, which are divided among three locations [⇒]

March 1935, the writer Zhou Zuoren (周作人, 1885-1967) publishes his essay 'Yue Fei and Qin Gui' (Yue Fei yu Qin Gui 岳飛與秦檜)

1 April 1930, the National Athletics Competition is held with Chiang Kai-shek, Soong Mei-ling and other government dignitaries attending the opening ceremony

2 August, the authorities decided to build a macadamized road from the train station to West Lake

3 November, the first Zhejiang national products exposition is held with over sixty participating factories and some 1400 products on display

October 1932, the Hall of Master Ji (Ji Gong Dian 濟公殿) at Jingci Monastery (Jingci Si 淨慈寺) is destroyed in a conflagration

August 1935, the Qiantang tidal bore washes away docks along the southern shore of the river and sweeps away over twenty-four households [⇒]

Fig.2 The Cloud Pine Studio (Yunsong Shushe 雲松書社) built in 1994 with funding from the martial arts novelist and Hong Kong media tycoon Jin Yong 金庸 (the penname of Zha Liangyong 查良鏞, b.1924), October 2011. (Photograph: GRB)

March-April 1937, Zhou Enlai and Chiang Kai-shek meet in secret at Chiang's West Lake residence, Cheng Villa, to discuss a cessation to the state of civil war between the Nationalists and Communists so that they can form a united front to resist the Japanese invasion

26 September, the Qiantang Bridge built to accommodate both road and rail traffic is completed

23-24 December, Nationalist forces withdraw from the city and Hangzhou is occupied by soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army

October 1943, many sections of the sea wall along the Qiantang River are destroyed during the autumn tidal surge [⇒]

15-16 August 1945, Japanese forces surrender

October, the first group of 140 traitors to the Japanese are arrested. 7000 Japanese troops start leaving Hangzhou and celebrations mark the end of the war with Japan

20 February 1946, Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling pass through Hangzhou on a trip between Nanjing and Shanghai

5 July, the Emperor's Four Treasuries removed from the Wenyuan Pavilion 文淵閣 library on West Lake for safekeeping in Chongqing during the hostilities is returned

September, the art academy, which had been evacuated during the war, returns to Luo Garden on Solitary Island

1946-49, there is a late flourishing of West Lake tourism and pilgrimages following the war with Japan, and despite the Civil War between the Nationalist and Communists. The city, however, also suffers from hyper-inflation during these years and witnesses continuous worker agitation as well as pro-Communist demonstrations

24 April 1947, the Zhongtianzhu Library at the Temple of the Soul's Retreat (Lingyin Si Zhongtianzhu Cangjing Ge 靈隱寺中天竺藏經閣) burns down

25 August, mass student rallies mark a new phase of student activism as the Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists unfolds

October 1947 onwards, worker protest ('worker surges' or gongchao 工潮) become endemic

26 January 1948, during the coldest winter in years West Lake freezes over. Some forty-five people die due to ice related incidents in Hangzhou during the season

10 May, a wind storm overturns dozens of boats on West Lake

18 August, Mao Zedong publishes 'Farewell, John Stuart Leighton' (Biele, Situ Leideng 别了,司徒雷登), a sarcastic envoi to the Hangzhou-born American ambassador to China who, as the representative of failed US policy in China, now has no choice but 'to pack his bags and leave'

21 January 1949, Chiang Kai-shek visits Hangzhou for the lasts time on the way to Fenghua