The Various Demons of West Lake by JiaHuan Lin ('18)

           I had been in FuJian Province for fourteen years and had never gone to other provinces in China until this past summer when I went back to China with four friends who I’d met and gotten to know in America. I was so excited, because this was the first time I was going back to China in four years. I was also happy to be traveling with my friends without my parents’ chatter. We planned to travel to some renowned tourist attractions by ourselves. However, we didn’t have much money. We finally decided to go to West Lake in HangZhou City, ZheJiang Province, which is near FuJian province. West Lake has a long historical significance to Chinese people, and there are many well-known myths associated with this place.

            My friends and I met at the south station in FuZhou City (the capital of FuJian Province), and took the bullet train for five hours to HangZhou. This train is a new technological invention that was completed after I left China. When the white and silver train arrived at the station, it didn’t make as much noise as the old train. A thin blue line under the window extended from the front to the back. Everything was well organized on board. We sat in our seats, wondering how technology can change so fast. My friends and I had an infinite number of topics to discuss. We could continue the chatter like birds until the world ended. I looked out the window from time to time; the passing landscapes were so beautiful. The green fields rushed by, the paddy plants waving in the refreshing wind. I felt I could smell the paddies even though we were seated inside the train. Behind the fields were many mountains with countless prosperous tress. Above the mountains was a boundless blue sky with a few clouds floating across, revealing traces of their elegant beauty. They looked like boats floating on a wide sea. This was nature’s artwork. I felt calm in the purity of nature.

Stone Tablet of West Lake in Chinese

Stone Tablet of West Lake in Chinese

            After a long five hours, we arrived at HangZhou. When we left the station, the weather was startling. I was covered with sweat just standing there. I felt like barbecued meat under the sun. When my friends and I arrived at West Lake, we saw a big, oval, slate gray stone tablet standing in front of some bushes and trees at the entrance. We then walked down the cobble-stoned path, through the tall and luxuriant trees that embrace the lake. They are the protectors who guard the lake from any outside forces intending to harm it. To the left of the cobbled road are small traditional Chinese boats to ferry the tourists across to the small island at the center of the lake. Every five minutes, another boat comes, taking fifty people at a time. The people waiting for the boat looked like they were afraid that they wouldn’t able to catch the ride. They all wanted to be the first one to board, pushing each other and saying “be quick!” and “excuse me”. My friends and I were waiting in the line, but people continuously jumped ahead of the queue. I was angry, but I couldn’t express it because most of the culprits were adults, old people and children. If I expressed myself, they would give us a lesson and they would show us the “innocent face” or the “so what” face. We were helpless. We only could wait, our excitement reduced.

LeiFeng Pagoda

LeiFeng Pagoda

            When we finally got into the boat, we enjoyed the scenery. Our bodies swung along above the limpid lake water, under an azure sky, surrounded by verdant trees. I smelled the water and saw the LeiFeng Pagoda, which reminded me of its myth. In ancient times, a white snake had lived in West Lake for a thousand years. One day, she turned into a beautiful young lady. She was very excited to become human. When she walked around the lake, she met a scholar on the bridge and fell in love with him. The scholar was enamored, too, but he didn’t know the lady was a snake demon. They got married, not knowing that the marriage between a human and demon would violate the rules of nature. A Buddhist monk called FaHai found out and came to West Lake to catch the demon. He locked the snake-woman in LeiFeng Pagoda. She couldn’t see her husband or child anymore. The couple was inconsolable. Some people thought the demon must stay in the pagoda, because demons are harmful to humans. Few people felt that this demon didn’t hurt any people and the snake-woman and the scholar were sincere and truly in love. Sadly, the snake-woman was locked in the LeiFeng Pagoda forever. This myth is very celebrated, and almost everybody knows it.

            Before we arrived at the small island, I saw people moving like dark worms on the island. Maybe I would be another one of the worms soon. We walked along the cobbled road and saw a small kiosk behind the small bridge and a stone tablet standing in the middle of the kiosk. It said you could see three images of the moon in the water here. I tried to take a picture with this stone tablet, but I gave up. Tourists formed a strong wall. I couldn’t even enter near the stone tablet. I only could take pictures of the stone tablet with many other unknown tourists around it, but not me.

           We walked forward some steps to the place where a scenic scene happened. This scenic scene was thirty-three images of the moon formed on the water surface at night. However, I didn’t know how thirty-three images of the moon could form. Because it was daytime, I didn’t have a chance to see that. We found the three small pinnacles that form the thirty-three images of the moon at night. The pinnacle is flask-shaped, with a bottle gourd-shaped top. The middle part of the pinnacle is a pentagon-shaped. At the bottom is a ball with four holes facing in four directions. Water covers the very bottom of the pinnacle. So, I couldn’t see that part. However, it didn’t interest me really. We just continued visiting other parts of the island.

           There are many bridges, one of which was an arch bridge. I saw many people standing there. I was curious. I walked faster. I smelled something fishlike. People were feeding the carp. They threw bread and fish food into the water. The golden fish came together, and they were all so fat! They moved their round bodies fast and ate the food like hot cakes. They ate each bite as if they had not eaten for a long time. I realized that the tourists were giving them too much food. This scene made me a little bit nauseous. I felt better on the other side of the bridge, away from them. I found green round lotus leaves there floating in clumps on the surface of the water. There were a few pink lotuses open, in full bloom. They seemed as if about to perform a dance in their prime. We stayed for some minutes thinking about the nature beauty and our plan for tomorrow, and then we took the boat back to the town.

            The lake is so huge. It takes two hours to walk all the way around it. We were lazy, so we decided to stroll for just ten minutes. The hot weather really affected us a lot. We felt inpatient and confused. Our brows were furrowed and we felt as if we were fulfilling a duty rather than on vacation. Although people always say teenagers should have more energy, teenagers also get tired! We saw many kiosks around the lake. So we stopped in one to rest. The top of the kiosk is square in shape. It has four red columns to support it. There is a poem carved on the column’s surface. Each word of the poem looked powerful. The wind softly brushed the kiosk. Even the lake water seemed to stop at the kiosk for a rest. The willow leaves danced in the wind. We had finally enjoyed a moment of peace in this landscape.

           About six pm, we went to have our dinner at a famous and popular restaurant called Grandmother’s Home. Its name meant the taste of food would be the same as your grandmother made for you when you were little, and it was like the taste of home. This restaurant helps people to cherish the memory of happiness they had with their grandmothers. After the dinner, we took the bus back to the hotel. Our first day of travel was finished.

           The trip to West Lake was different than what we expected, though I am sure the view of West Lake is special in each season. Unfortunately, we had chosen the wrong time to visit West Lake. One thing I could tell is that the landscape is really beautiful. If there weren’t so many tourists and the weather was not so hot, I believe I could have had a better chance at a good mood to appreciate the wonderful landscapes. If I really had the chance, I would go there again in spring or winter to experience the other wonders that the nature there creates.v

           The trip to West Lake was different than what we expected, though I am sure the view of West Lake is special in each season. Unfortunately, we had chosen the wrong time to visit West Lake. One thing I could tell is that the landscape is really beautiful. If there weren’t so many tourists and the weather was not so hot, I believe I could have had a better chance at a good mood to appreciate the wonderful landscapes. If I really had the chance, I would go there again in spring or winter to experience the other wonders that the nature there creates.