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


West Lake: a Chronology (1949-1978) | China Heritage Quarterly

West Lake: a Chronology (1949-1978)

This outline chronology offers an overview of the history of West Lake and Hangzhou from the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 until the end of the High Maoist period in 1978. 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

People's Republic of China 中華人民共和國 (1949-)

The Maoist Era, 1949-78

3 May 1949, the Twenty-first Division of the People's Liberation Army under the command of the Chinese Communist Party occupies the city. The People's Republic of China is officially inaugurated in Beijing on 1 October this year

During the early 1950s, the Communist Party authorities (including the state apparatus and the army) occupy key buildings and sites on West Lake for their exclusive use.

17 May 1950, Hangzhou Daily publishes a long article under the title 'West Lake is Being Transformed' (Gaizao zhongde Xihu 改造中的西湖) [⇒]

Spring 1953, on learning of the parlous state of the Temple of the Soul's Retreat Zhou Enlai, premier of the People's Republic, authorizes emergency funding for its repair

September, at a City Planning Meeting the Soviet urban specialist A.C. Maxim's plan to make Hangzhou into the 'Geneva of the East' is discussed [⇒]

27 December, Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, takes up residence in Liu Villa on the Inner West Lake of West Lake (for further details, see 'Mao Zedong at West Lake: a chronology'). The villa has been remodeled by the architect Dai Nianci 戴念慈 [⇒]

January 1954, the Dharma Master Hongyi Memorial Pagoda is built at Running Tiger Temple (Hupao Si 虎跑寺) by Feng Zikai with the support of other lay Buddhists and the Singapore-based monk Guangqia 廣洽 [⇒]

8 June, Premier Zhou Enlai invites the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, to a reception and screening of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai 梁山伯與祝英台, 'the Romeo and Juliet of China' [⇒]

October 1956, during a state visit by the Indonesian President Suharto Zhou Enlai and Foreign Minister Chen Yi go to Hangzhou and tour West Lake. When at West Lake again in the company of Soviet dignitaries Zhou goes to Running Tiger Temple (Hupao Si 虎跑寺) and introduces the legends related to Master Ji (Ji Gong 濟公, 1130-1209) who is buried there. Ji, also known as Mad Monk Ji (Ji Dian 濟癲), is legendary for having protected the innocent. During 1956-57, Zhou issues instructions to protect certain 'revolutionary artifacts' and graves on West Lake. In particular, while taking a stroll after a meal at Louwai Lou on Solitary Island he asks local leaders to ensure that the courtesan Su Xiaoxiao's grave, and the pavilion protecting it (the Pavilion of Admired Talent) be preserved. Neither survive the lead up to the Cultural Revolution and they are demolished in December 1964

1957, Zhou Enlai visits Meijia Wu 梅家塢, the home of Dragon Well tea (Longjing cha 龍井茶), and over five trips there becomes closely involved in the revitalization of the local brand

1958, Dai Nianci 戴念慈 is charged with expanding Wang Villa (see 1927) which has been in a state of disrepair since 1937. The guarded complex incorporates Evening Glow Mountain (Xizhao Shan 夕照山), Su Family Hill (Sujia Shan 蘇家山), Evening Glow Temple (Xizhao Si 夕照寺) and White Cloud Nunnery (Baiyun An 白雲庵), which Sun Yat-sen had visited in 1910. The villa is for the exclusive use of Party and international dignitaries. Mao Zedong stays there some twenty-seven times

November 1959, Mao Zedong warns of the dangers of 'peaceful evolution' at a Party meeting held at the Dahua Hotel (Dahua Binguan 大華賓館)

1959-66, every winter Zhu De (朱德, 1886-1976) visits West Lake on what are called 'tours of inspection '(shicha 視察). During these trips Zhu, a robust former Red Army leader, enjoys hiking in the hills around the Lake. He also takes a special interest in the cultivation of orchids, even as the country of which he is one of the leaders lurches towards political radicalism

1962, John Leighton Stuart dies in Washington. He has expressed the hope that he will be buried in Beijing on the campus of the university he helped found

1964, Wu Song's Tomb (Wu Song mu 武松墓) near to Xiling Bridge is demolished; however, the progressive poet, writer and artist Su Manshu (蘇曼殊, 1884-1918), whose grave on the northern side of Solitary Hill caved in during the 1950s, is reburied at Chicken Coop Hill (Jilong Shan 雞籠山) on the southwest edge of West Lake

Fig.1 A view of Breeze Amongst the Lotuses of Brewing Courtyard (Quyuan Fenghe 麴院風荷). (Photograph: GRB)

1966, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is formally launched and a campaign is initiated to obliterate 'the Four Olds', as a result of which many cultural sites and antiquities are damaged or destroyed

August 1966, Zhou Enlai sends a telegram to the Hangzhou authorities ordering the closure of the Temple of the Soul's Retreat to prevent it from being sacked by Red Guards.

August, the philosopher Ma Yifu (馬一浮, wanhao Juansou 蠲叟, 1883-1967) enjoyed state largesse from the 1950s. As a prominent 'fellow traveller' he is permitted to live in Jiang Villa (Jiang Zhuang 蔣莊) on the Su Causeway. Located next to Viewing Fish at Flower Harbour (Huagang Guan Yu 花港觀魚) the villa was built by Lian Huiqing 廉惠卿 in the late-Qing who called it the 'Small Hall of Ten-thousand Willows' (Xiao Wanliu Tang 小萬柳堂). During the Republic it was purchased by Jiang Guobang 蔣國榜, a disciple of Ma's from Nanjing. In 1950, Jiang invited his mentor to take up residence in the spacious, renovated two-storey building, which was now known as Jiang Villa. During the 1950s and early 60s, Ma is courted by and paid homage to by Communist Party leaders including Zhou Enlai and the Shanghai Mayor Chen Yi 陳毅. Denounced by Red Guards as a 'feudal remnant' (fengjian yilao 封建遺老) in Augusts 1966, Ma is ejected from Jiang Villa and dies shortly thereafter

1966, rebels against the old Party organization seize power in Hangzhou and Zhejiang province. One of the victims of the purge is the post-1949 Hangzhou mayor Jiang Hua 江華. Originally from Hunan, Mao's home province, Jiang became provincial head in 1951 and, among other things, tirelessly catered for the Chairman's needs during his numerous trips to West Lake

1966-67, local and non-Hangzhou Red Guards attack various sites on West Lake, in particular the Tomb of Yue Fei. Yue is denounced as a 'representative figure of feudal landlords'. The Dharma Master Hongyi Memorial Pagoda at Running Tiger Temple built in 1956 is also demolished, as are many other sites at the temple. Nonetheless, Red Guards on 'revolutionary link-ups' (geming da chuanlian 革命大串聯) take time out from their destructive political enterprise to visit the sites and enjoy boating on West Lake

Late 1960s and early 1970s, repairs are made to various sites on West Lake and buildings are refurbished due to visits by the Cambodian prince Norodom Sihanouk and Richard Nixon, President of the United States

December 1971, Zhou Enlai orders the repair of the runway at Hangzhou Airport in preparation for Richard Nixon's visit

26-27 February 1972, Richard Nixon in the company of Zhou Enlai stays at Liu Villa, West Lake. While there they finalize the text of the Shanghai Communiqué (formally titled 'The Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People's Republic of China'). Zhou also accompanies Nixon to visit Viewing Fish at Flower Harbour and other scenic spots at West Lake

1972, pre-Cultural Revolution leaders are restored to power in Hangzhou following the fall of Lin Biao in September 1971

January 1973, the former Shanghai worker Wang Hongwen 王洪文 who had enjoyed a meteoric rise to national power with Mao's support and wa now a member of the Beijing Cultural Revolution leadership visits Hangzhou. He meets with the formerly disgraced rebel faction leader Weng Senhe 翁森鹤, originally a Silk Printing and Dyeing Factory worker and offers him encouragement and support against the restored Party leaders

August, Weng Senhe attends the Tenth Party Congress in Beijing as a representative from Hangzhou. In his speech at the Congress Wang Hongwen extols the 'spirit of going against the tide'

15-16 September, Zhou Enlai and Ji Pengfei accompany the French President George Pompidou on a state visit that includes a trip to Hangzhou and West Lake. They discuss nuclear armaments while enjoying West Lake at night. During this trip Zhou spoke about a time in the future when the People's Republic, having gained accession to the United Nations, would be able to host international conferences at West Lake

1974, factional struggles involving Party leaders and workers continue throughout the year, occasioning violence

8 February-14 April 1975, Mao's last stay at West Lake. He lives at Building Number One, Wang Villa (Wang Zhuang Yi Hao Lou 汪莊一號樓)

July, factional strife is suppressed by force and the rebel leader Weng Senhe is detained

9 September 1976, Mao Zedong dies and is succeed by Hua Guofeng 華國鋒 as Party Chairman

August-September 1977, celebrations mark Hua Guofeng's calligraphic inscriptions for the provincial Zhejiang Daily (Zhejiang Ribao 浙江日報) newspaper followed by that for Hangzhou Daily (Hangzhou Ribao 杭州日報)

December 1978, the Cultural Revolution era and the politics of class struggle come to an end and are replaced by policies favouring economics, enterprise and trade